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Pepper Spray and The Creation Story

February 7, 2012
new orleans education

A student threatened another student with pepper spray. He produced the bottle before school: a spray bottle with hot sauce and peppercorns.

My journal topic for today was, ” If you could have a conversation with someone who has already passed away, who would it be? What would you say?” In third block, I start class by discussing the prompt many times. It’s right after lunch, and it gets them settled down. Today’s prompt started a conversation about heaven and hell, and what it’s like in both places, or if they’re real at all. One of my brightest asked, “Is there malls in hell?” I told her there were, but that you can’t buy anything. “It’s aaaaallllll window shopping,” I threaten her.

The mind-boggling discussion of heaven and hell somehow got us around to the creation story from the Bible. One student had been to Catholic school and knew a little bit about it. “God’s stomach was growling and he ate that apple. That’s what I heard.” In order to clarify, I grab my uneaten apple from my lunch bag and I tell them the story: Adam and Eve were hanging out, and God said they could kick it anywhere, but to keep their hands off the apple. But Eve ate the apple, and then things went down hill. “Man, that ho stupid!” my sweaty star pipes up.

“I bet Eve was black. Our people always doin’ stupid shit,” a girl in my front row said. The kids were all quick to blame Adam and Eve for their being in the 8th grade still, for not knowing the answers to the test, and for general discomfort and distress.

The kids wonder if they were Eve, could they have kept their hands off the apple. So I put one Starburst on the corner of each of their desks. I tell them that if they wait 30 minutes, they get another. Thirty more minutes, another. And one more time. So if they wait until the end of the day, they’ll have 4. If they eat them at any time, they are out of luck.

Every student made it through the first 30 minutes. Some kids hid them in their desks, some left them in plain sight. After the second round, my sweat-ball opened and ate both candies. When I questioned him, he replied sheepishly, “Oh, I didn’t know we was doin’ that no more,” salivating from the sugar rush.

Not surprising, given his immediate answer to the question proposed by one of his classmates, “How did all the stuff in  the world get here?”

“God a construction worker!”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Claudia Gibson permalink
    February 7, 2012 5:00 pm

    I love your stuff. I feel so much better about my own inner city teaching job now, lol.
    I have a colleague who has this analogy – it’s like a slot machine. We just keep putting the coins in. Once in a while we get a payoff. The trick is not to get too emotionally invested (a trick I haven’t learned yet, btw). We just offer what we can, and sometimes a seed gets planted that sprouts a long time later.

  2. February 7, 2012 9:24 pm

    interesting – i was just reading about this: Mr. Mischel is most famous for devising the “marshmallow test” in the late 1960s when he was at Stanford. In it, an experimenter leads a 4- or 5-year-old into a room where there is a marshmallow on a table. The experimenter tells the child he’s going to leave the room for a little while, and that if the child doesn’t eat the marshmallow until he comes back, he’ll be rewarded with two marshmallows. If he eats the marshmallow, he’ll get only that one.

    a starburst sounds so good right now too!!!

  3. February 7, 2012 9:25 pm

    oh, and i can’t get over the pepper spray. that kills me. i should totally make my own.

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