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April 7, 2012: Student Watch, the Story Continues

As of today, no change in Signy. Actually, she’s a bit more on edge. Could be the weather. It’s again snowing, and now also raining. Big flakes mixed with water droplets are oozing out of the tired, gray sky. The snow is clinging to dear life on the trees, and the ground is gloppy underfoot.

Yesterday’s class: I knew that I could easily talk about the subject of animal behavior in relation to birth, but feared that I might come up short on the veterinary medicine aspects. But I was game. I’m always game Plus, Pete had helped put together a prize-winning PowerPoint presentation.

I felt as though I could not go wrong. The lights were dimmed, and I began by reading the poem that I wrote yesterday morning, the one about waiting for the mare to foal. After, the air felt heavy, the way it feels when one reads a good poem.

I took advantage of the high degree of attentiveness, by then telling the students stories about my horses. In this way I established further credibility, and at least partially made up for the gaps in my education. (Yes, I should have gone on in school and gotten the degree in veterinary medicine.)

Good students all, they filled in the blanks for me and together we made progress, talking at length about things like red bag syndrome. This (in layperson’s terms) is when the placenta, at birth, appears red in color. It means that the foal probably isn’t getting oxygen, and that the mare and foal will need an assist.

It was then that I saw Dr. Sabrieta Holland (who teaches the class before mine) hovering outside the door. She was half listening, half doing something else. I’m never one to miss an opportunity, so I yelled out that I had a question for her. I added that I needed to know if Serammune would be a good substitute for colostrum.

Sabrieta willingly jumped into the fray. The students told her some about Signy and her foaling history, and that I had concerns about the upcoming foaling. Right then, it occurred to me that I had, through the use of narrative, set the stage. Whether Sabrieta knew this or not is a moot point. What’s important here is that she then arose to the occasion, answering all our parturition-related questions.

Dr. Holland went into great detail about many things, talking rapidly, and using phraseology that I was unfamiliar with. I hung onto every word because I needed the information. I have a mare that is due to foal. She might very well have red bag syndrome. The birth is going to be an explosive event, and most likely, Dr. Wellington, my regular veterinarian, won’t be able to get to my place on time.

The students clearly enjoyed the show – and it was I’m sure, a nice interlude for them. Other teachers don’t usually step into other teacher’s classes and upon request, start talking. Also, the students didn’t have to give group presentations this week. This is hard work.

There was a teacherly danger here, and I was fully aware of it. I could have lost my student’s credibility by having a supposedly more knowledgeable individual impart information. I chanced it, and this did not happen. Rather, the students who all along have fully empathized with my plight, continued to do so. They continued to see me as a well-meaning and earnest individual who most likely would be better off teaching English. Their job then, is to assist me in getting through this dog awful semester. They also continued to see me as a fellow animal lover. This from the very beginning has been our point of commonality.

Sabrieta left the room, and we returned to the task at hand – finish up the power point presentation, show them my foaling kit, and conclude with some horse birth related YouTube videos.

One birth was near perfect. The mare pushed and the foal came out nicely. The other was a bit more messy. For the longest time, a front leg hung out of the mare’s rear quarters. I listened carefully to the student’s comments – yep, they understood, and were able to talk knowledgably about what was going on.

As always, there were a few who, when I interject comments, rolled their eyes. And there were a few who remained wide eyed. I didn’t at all mind this for the eye rollers continued to keep me on the straight and narrow, and the wide eyed gave me permission to deviate from lecture format.

I concluded class by handing out the next week’s assignment sheet. After everyone left, I did a visual sweep, making sure that no one had left anything behind. It was, I thought, just another day in the life of a somewhat jaded English teacher. What the students don’t realize is that I’ve been there, done that. I’m a product of the academic system. I didn’t fully buy into it as a student—this made me even more savvy to how the system works.

Sad to say, in the end, what it comes down to is grades. School sometimes can be likened to that childhood game, Hooks and Ladders. Up you go, down you go. Kiss ass, wheedle, get to know the teacher, turn cartwheels, do whatever it takes to get the desired letter grade on the transcripts.

School is of course, also about learning. And it’s my job to insure that learning takes place. I must do whatever it takes to keep students motivated and willing to learn. This semester, my partially playing the ineffectual dweeb has worked in my favor.

Teacher as dweeb is just a partial ruse, because I do know how to teach. And I know what I’m doing. I’ve been playing with a full deck, and this deck contains the English-related collaborative theory and writing across the curriculum cards. It also contains the animal behavior related positive reinforcement card.

I’m also smart enough to know that my again playing the role of the dolt will not work, because it will not be partially true to life. I’ll get skewered big time by rapacious students who’ll see the ruse, and consequently have no empathy for me.

And so, the next time around will be different, because in the world of teaching, nothing ever stays the same.

Next: 121. 4/08/12: Slop and Glop