A Funny Memory

Isn’t it odd that we wake up one day and think about something that happened decades ago that we haven’t thought of for years?  The brain is a curious retainer of information.  That’s what happened today when suddenly, a funny memory from my days as an elementary teacher struck me.

During a typical school year, I often invited speakers into my classroom.  Just because I was a teacher didn’t mean I was an expert about everything.  The kids always perked up when something out of the ordinary happened.  One of the things about teaching is you learn that variety is vital in keeping students engaged.

On this particular day, a guest speaker came to speak to the entire school.  We regularly had school assemblies, so that was not that odd, but it was unusual to have the presentation outside for all of the elementary classes at the same time. 

The side of a trailer opened up, and the students had an excellent view of an animal, calmly munching on a mixture of grass and grains.  The kids sat down on the blacktop and became mesmerized.  In front of them was a huge brown and white dairy cow contained by an extended pen.  There was no danger of the cow getting loose as several horizontal metal bars were running across the trailer’s length.

The children were fascinated while some of my female colleagues were gawking at the handsome thirty-something presenter.  After he began talking, it was evident that he had made this presentation many times before.  He was funny and engaging.

When speakers came to school, it wouldn’t take long to recognize if they had ever spoken to children before.  One of the biggest giveaways was how they handled the inevitable raised hands from the excited students.  The principal would typically introduce the speaker, tell the children what they were going to learn about, and caution them not to raise their hands until the end.  Inevitably, a younger child would soon forget and raise a hand enthusiastically after a couple of minutes.

The natural response from an inexperienced speaker was to call on the excited hand waving in the air.  What usually happened was the young five or six-year-old would either pause for ten seconds before announcing, “I forgot,” or better yet, begin telling a story about something completely off the topic.  For example, if a speaker was showing the kids different types of bird nests, we could almost always count on some child to raise his hand and proudly announce, “My brother shot a bird with his BB gun!” 

Having seen this pattern repeat itself more than once over the years, what followed next was a predictable sequence:  1. A confused look came across the speaker’s face.  2. Some of the older students in the audience began to snicker, realizing the child’s comment was irrelevant.  3. The teachers immediately shushed and reprimanded their students for not being more polite.

A rookie presenter may even fall into the trap a second time calling on another excited hand, only to hear some random fact about the child’s guinea pig, at which point the same three-point sequence happens again.

The speaker who has been around young children before immediately knows how to wave a child off by simply saying, “I’ll be sure and call on you at the end.”

In the case of the cow handler, he took the most brilliant approach I’d ever seen.  He first introduced the cow to the kids.  I don’t remember the name of the animal in question, but let’s call him Maurice for the sake of this story.  The speaker immediately asked the kids for a favor. (Every elementary student I ever taught wants to help, so this was smart.) He said something like, “Now, boys and girls, I’m going to need your help today.  Sometimes, when Maurice is nervous, he goes to the bathroom.  When he does that, please make sure he doesn’t feel embarrassed.  Wouldn’t you feel funny if you went to the bathroom in front of everyone else?”  Many of the kids in the audience acknowledged this would be true.

The wise gentleman continued, “Now when Maurice goes to the bathroom, I don’t want you to laugh because then he will be embarrassed.  What I want you to do instead is clap for him because then he won’t feel bad.  Will you do that for me?”

A few minutes later, as the speaker was teaching the kids how cows chew their food with their thirty-two bottom teeth for up to eight hours a day, Maurice went into action and began dropping a load inside the trailer.  The man stopped speaking instantly, and he and the kids started giving Maurice a thunderous ovation.  If the speaker hadn’t set the table beforehand, I guarantee that the kids would have fallen apart at that moment and gone into complete hysterics. 

Maurice had become a celebrity by doing what comes naturally to cows.

Categories SchoolTags , ,

48 thoughts on “A Funny Memory

  1. Brilliant! Now if only we could apply this tactic on adults!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 8:41 am

      Right! 🤣🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a “smart” man! He probably learned by prior experiences:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 8:17 am

      Experience is the best teacher if we’re paying attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is hilarious, Pete, and it contains good tips too. I have tended to follow the headmistress of my son, Michael’s, school. She always took the question and made a comment about it and then moved on so that is what I have done when I present to children. I haven’t done that for a while now though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 8:26 am

      That’s not a bad approach, but with kids that often leads to many others wanting to be called on. A speaker usually realizes at some point the need to stop the questions temporarily, or he/she won’t get through the presentation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True, I always only answer too and I tell them that upfront. Your way is better and I shall use it going forward.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fabulous story, Pete. He was a very clever presenter. Many of us could learn a lesson from that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 8:30 am

      He was brilliant and had come up with a solution for an obvious distraction that would repeat itself. The guy knew his stuff, too. I remember learning a lot about cows that day, Norah.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like a great incursion.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. i love everything about this story, and what you described about speakers and young children in spot on. brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 8:32 am

      As a preschool teacher, I’m sure you’ve got a few good ones like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful story, Pete. Did it come back to you while you were in the bathroom? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 8:38 am

      Isn’t that where we do our best thinking? 😊 That reminds me of a time when we were having dinner with some friends, and I had to go use their bathroom. They had one of those racks you might see in a dentist’s office with all kinds of reading material. I had never seen anything like that in someone’s home.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is a great place to read – and that must have been quite a bathroom to hold such a rack!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Pete, that is hysterical. What a great tale, and you made it so entertaining to read 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 12:28 pm

      No shortage of comedy gold when you work at a school. One of the things I miss the most is sharing those moments with my students.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A great story, Pete, as it will have encouraged the children to learn both about cows and their own behaviour. I’ll be looking for applause the next time I need to go in public 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 1:20 pm

    I always tried to give my students public speaking opportunities, Clive, and one year one of the students’ dads brought one of his cows to school, and his daughter (in my class at the time) showed the kids how to milk it.

    Like

  10. Ah, memories are indeed funny things. Word associations, song lyrics and more. That was good prep by the speaker. An unusual presentation to be sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 27, 2020 — 5:18 pm

      It’s an important lesson to know your audience. Without saying anything to the kids in advance, he would have lost them all at that moment, and he might not have gotten them back.

      Like

  11. Kudus to the young presenter and thank you, Pete, for sharing such a wonderful moment 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 28, 2020 — 8:01 am

      I find it simply amazing that from out of the blue, we recall some distant memory.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know it can be anything and up it pops..awesome…

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Ha ha ha. Well, you got me laughing, Pete. I can just imagine the scene. And what a fun hands-on way for kids to learn. Great post. You started my day with a smile. Have a wonderful Sunday. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 31, 2020 — 8:16 am

      The best humor is found in everyday life. Mixed in with all of the drama and sadness of life are moments of joy and whimsy. Thanks for stopping by, Diana.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I wish people would clap for me, lol. Wonderful tail, Pete. I’m surprised the cow didn’t startle at the noise!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor May 31, 2020 — 11:29 am

      Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated. I got the sense that this wasn’t the cow’s first rodeo, and I imagine the critter was used to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Lol, loved this story. So funny how predictable kids can be. Good tips too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor June 2, 2020 — 8:39 am

      In some ways, kids’ actions are predictable, but then there were times when I was amazed at some of the brilliant observations that came out of their mouths.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ‘Out of the mouths of babes’ 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I remember clapping my toddlers when they performed on the poe. Great story, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor June 2, 2020 — 8:43 am

      Right! Who doesn’t like a little reinforcement? 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Fantastic story, Pete – I wonder what the cow thought of it all? Toni

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor June 2, 2020 — 8:44 am

      I always wonder about that when I see somebody dress up one of their pets for Halloween.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. How did he transport a cow to the school? It must took a while to set up the presentation and got the cow to move to the spot. I can’t remember having live animals on site for an assembly. Yeah, when I talked to the kids on certain subject, I anticipate their giggling so I always had a way to defuse that before presenting it. I guess it comes from years of dealing with students. When I did my administrative internship, I took on a project and had assembly for my school in the cafeteria. I was fine with taking questions from 300 students at a time with lower grades assembly then upper grades.

    Great post, Pete, and I like the way you wrote about it. That female teacher looking at the handsome presenter was so funny!

    Like

    1. petespringerauthor June 2, 2020 — 1:26 pm

      It was a slick setup. The presenter had a big truck that pulled this rather long trailer. Then one side of the trailer lowered, and there was the cow, but he was still inside a penned area.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I imagine it wasn’t an easy set up!

        Liked by 1 person

  18. You are a wonderful story teller. I could imagine the whole scene as though I was there clapping for the cow. Great writing. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor June 10, 2020 — 1:40 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, John. As a guy who likes to laugh, there was no shortage of comedic material around my school. Kids are pretty funny (both intentionally and unintentionally), and the job was never boring.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I loved this story, Pete. The presenter knew children well. Comedy in elementary school is huge, and this guy nailed it getting the whole audience to clap for Maurice when he does his business. Brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor July 1, 2020 — 7:20 pm

      Taking advantage of comedy is a must. Some of my best moments where when my students and I could share a laugh about something together (sometimes at my expense), such as the time I inadvertently wore one black and one brown shoe to school. Shhh! That’s another story.🤣

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember the shoe story! Laughing together with children is terrific. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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