Monday, March 15, 2010

The Moose Is Loose: A Tale Out Of School

As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I used to teach English. I taught at a program for at-risk adolescents, troubled teens, who had been removed from their regular schools for a variety of colorful reasons. They would come to us for an average of eight to ten weeks and work on their various issues. Three days a week they had school. The other four days were spent out in the field (year round) learning survival and leadership skills.

For a lot of kids, this was hell. These kids were generally the city kids, the ones for whom roughing it meant going without valet parking or room service or internet access, cell phones or their iPods. Internet access or cell phone reception at the school, located in the middle of nowhere in Western Maine, was a little hard to come by. (iPods were banned until a student reached a certain level.)

What wasn't hard to come by was the wildlife. Deer, moose, bears, coyotes, even a mountain lion (I didn't see that one personally...that was the social studies teacher) could be found everywhere. One day, a moose went walking right through the middle of campus, very close to the school building where one of our students (who happened to be doing a little detoxing at the time) thought he was hallucinating when he looked out the window and saw the moose looking back at him.

Another time, a group of students was out in the field and came across a big bull moose on the trail. The moose then proceeded to charge them. No one was hurt. Later that night, a bear visited their camp. The guides thought the kids were up to something but they weren't. As I found out that following Monday, they were busy being scared to death.

"Melissa," one of them told me. "I was so scared. I had to pee so bad."

And on the occasion when a student would threaten to run away, I would mostly just say, "Just watch out for the bears" and the student would look from me to the emergency exit door and then sit back down.

City kids. They're so easy.

But today's story starts one sunny spring or summer afternoon when a student, Brad (please note, all student names have been changed), fresh out of the jungles of New York City, was sitting in a classroom, taking a make up exam for his school. We teachers were taking turns checking in on him and making sure he was getting his work done. When a significant amount of time had passed, Brad still hadn't finished his assignment and I was forced to investigate.

"I can't concentrate," Brad said. "There's this moose outside making all this noise and it's bugging me."

"There's a what doing what?" I asked.

"A moose," Brad said. "It's outside and it's bugging me."

"Because it's being loud and rowdy?"

"Yes. There it is again," Brad said. "Can't you hear it?"

Wanting to give Brad the benefit of the doubt, I went to the emergency exit door and opened it. I listened for the loud and rowdy moose. I didn't hear it. But I did hear something.

A chainsaw.

When it started up again, I turned back to Brad and asked, "Is that what you were hearing?"

"Yes!" Brad said, feeling vindicated.

"Yeah, sweetie," I said. "That's not a moose."

"It's not?"

"No," I said then. "That's a chainsaw."

"A chainsaw?"

"Yes. Not a moose."

"Oh."

"So how about you finish that test now?" I asked.

"Yeah," Brad said. Now he sounded disappointed.

At least Brad knew in which country he was. One of my students didn't. But that's a story for another time. Happy Monday. Hope this story made you smile.

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