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The Show and Tell speech that went very, very wrong.

March 3, 2014

School has been cancelled for today, giving a respite to many of my Bible students – they can delay their speech. 

A sandwich speech, to be specific.

No, I’m not kidding.  My Bible class has sandwich speeches.

There’s a reason why.

Many sophomore students still carry too much of a chill when it comes to standing in front of a crowd and giving their Christian testimony. A Bible devotional or sermon would be out of the question for them, but it’s not because of a lack of Biblical love or Scriptural knowledge.  It’s because they still carry an unhealthy fear of an audience of more than three people.

Years ago, I realized that one of the best ways to help students overcome this phobia was to start by simply getting them up front doing something.  Anything.  It would be especially helpful if they could clearly explain a practice that they have done all of their lives, and making a sandwich is pretty much part of everyone’s existence, so I chose that area of experience for a demonstration.

I’ve been grading sandwich speeches for over ten years now.  Many of my readers who are former students of mine can attest to their demonstration of peanut butter-and-jelly creations, while others became more artsy in their presentations with ham-and-cheese-on-rye, chili hot dogs, and even a peanut-butter-and-Cheetos sandwich.

Jim made a peanut-butter-and-bacon masterpiece.  “The bacon must be crisp and firm,” he explained seriously.  “I personally shy away from Canadian bacon myself – too thick.”

Lori made a submarine sandwich.  “You’ve got to be aggressive with the tomatoes,” she instructed us, “and don’t forget my little motto:  ‘if you don’t have at least three kinds of meat, you’re not doing it right.'”

In a way, it’s like Show and Tell for teenagers.  I must admit, it’s highly entertaining.

In fact, I’ve always liked presentations like this.  Through the years I’ve taught various grades and have included a Show and Tell type of speech to each one – I feel it’s good experience for the student and a nice respite from the lecture zockolldoggrind for me.

But as most teachers will tell you, many a time the ol’ Show and Tell can bring some unexpected results.

I was a teacher at a small school out west that combined all the grades into one tight building.  I was good friends with the elementary teachers as well as middle and high school instructors.  We had to be – we were bumping into each other in the halls all the time.

“There’s a lot of excitement going on in your kindergarten,” I said to Mrs. Kapanka one day as the early bell rang.  “What’s the latest in your classroom?”

Mrs. Kapanka was a veteran of three decades of teaching, but she still loved every day of class time with her little ones. “It’s Bring Your Pet to School Day. You’ll see a lot of children unloading all kinds of animals from their family vans.  I’ll be seeing dogs, kittens, bunnies, goldfish, gerbils, and maybe a parakeet or two.”

“Any snakes?” I asked.

“No, no snakes, thank goodness,” she said.  “I told the parents the line is drawn at lizards.  No snakes.”

I did indeed see the kindergarteners traipsing in with puppies on leashes, cats in containers and an occasional hamster in a cage.  It seems like everyone had an animal to share.  I did, however, notice one little girl who stomped into the school hallway with a glare.  Lisa was scowling something fierce.

I sidled over to Mrs. Kapanka.  “Problems with Lisa?”

She nodded.  “Her mother told me that Lisa broke some household rules over the weekend, including a neglect at feeding her kitten.  The punishment was that Lisa could not bring her pet to school today.”

I watched as tiny Lisa fumed while heading into the cloak room.  She came from a large family and kept her in line well enough, but her parents had a handful with this strong-willed child at times.  She was not only hardheaded, she could come up with some oddly creative ideas at times.  Weeks before, we caught her at the school property fence line one recess break, curiously attached to a dog that was furiously barking through a knothole in the fence.  The dog was raging and roaring, keeping all the kids a safe distance from the knothole.  There actually was no danger; the neighbor’s dog could only cram his nose into the hole and growl viciously.  When we came over, we understood why the dog was going nutty:  Lisa was taking straw grass and cramming it into the nostril of the dog every time it shoved its nose into the knothole.  That dog’s nose looked like a holder for coffee stirrers.

And now Lisa was fussing around the kindergarten room, the only child with no animal.  Her jealousy was enormous.

“Good luck with the animals,” I said as the opening bell sounded and I headed for my Bible class, “and good luck with Lisa.”  Mrs. Kapanka waved and smiled.

My planning period was during the third hour, and as I stopped by the kitchen area to grab a coffee before I graded some papers, I heard a chorus of screams from the kindergarten area.  Mrs. Kapanka’s door burst open and kids were running and screaming all over.

I moved towards the door, expecting an emergency.

I encountered Lisa at the front of the room, looking confused and holding something I could not make out.  Mrs. Kapanka slid over to me and quickly explained:  “We were halfway through the presentations, when Lisa walked purposely up to the front.  She insisted that she did have a pet to show, even though there was nothing in her hands.  See the large pocket on her jumper?”

I nodded.

“She reached in and pulled it out.  Please, would you go get it and do something with it?”

Lisa was stroking it and kissing something tenderly.  “Lisa, let me see what your pet is.”

“I haven’t named him yet, but I found him outside,” she explained, holding out her hand to show me.  “If you find a stray animal, it’s yours to keep, isn’t it? I think I’ll name him Bobby.  Nice Bobby.”

There, in her hand, was a flattened road-kill frog.  It was the size and shape of a small dinner plate, and part of its grey-green body was oozing something undistinguishable.  It must have been dead for at least a week, and I could only guess that a portion of it was in some sort of a puddle.   Half of it looked like green plastic with eyes.  The other half looked like Lime Jello.  Little legs were held in a rigor mortis position.

I stammered and stuttered.  “Yes, Lisa, Bobby does seem nice… but I think that he… he would like to get outside and get some air.  Why don’t we take him … for a walk?”

I sit here and laugh when I remember that scene.  Stuff like this happened to me on a continual basis, and I still shake my head at the variety of weird occurrences I encountered – and still do, for that matter.

It was weird, sure, but isn’t variety the spice of life?  Even weird variety.

You never can tell what happens next…

It reminds me of the tenth chapter of John, when Jesus Himself says that he has come to give the Believer life more abundantly.  I look at the word “abundantly” and see that the Koine Greek word is perissos, meaning “over and above”, and with a wide grin I must admit that situations like Lisa’s have added many a hilarious memory to my life.  “Abundantly” doesn’t necessarily mean financial gain or extreme popularity.  It’s so much more of a gift – to the heart and mind and soul. Jesus gives the Christian school teacher so many oddly enjoyable twists and turns in the classroom such as this and other situations that I share, that I must heartily agree that as I look back at my Bible teaching career up to now, I have been truly given over and above what I ever expected, whether it’s a student changing his life over to a dynamic walk with Jesus or a kindergartener carrying around a flat frog as a pet.

I’ve tried other careers. Nothing has beat the unpredictability of teaching in a Christian school, and I say that in a positive sense.  I really, really enjoy it – every odd situation that comes along.

When I hear of a schoolteacher that mentions how much they hate their profession or their pupils, I just shake my head.  Every day is an adventure.  Every day is a new book waiting to be read.

P.S. By the way, Lisa’s mom wouldn’t let her keep Bobby.

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2 Comments
  1. I’ve never understood why teachers who talk about hating their students, or parents who talk about hating their kids, are interacting with kids to begin with. Children are very perceptive; if the adults in their life don’t like them, they can tell.

    • Agreed, friend! I recall a youth pastor exclaiming how much he hated Christmas because he had to work with kids and get holiday celebrations and parties over with. I wondered why he was even in the ministry in the first place. Christmas is the highlight of the year for me and my students!

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