|This is a duck but not mine because mine was, after all, invisible.|
I once had to go see the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources because of an invisible pet duck. This is an absolutely true story.
I was called into the principal’s office one day. This was a terrible awful principal previously mentioned on this blog. She was horrible. This time let’s call her Ms. Padderson (if you substitute the letter t for the letter d you have her actual last name). Ms. Padderson frequently called me into her office. She did not like me. She did not like a lot of teachers. Most teachers did not like her. On this particular occasion she had a toady with her in the form of a vice principal. The issues were so serious that two administrators were present. As I recall there were three issues that she wanted to discuss. The first two regarded some sort of complaint or other from a parent or student. Most administrators take student and parent complaints with a grain of salt. They have to. There are so many of them and many of them are — you should excuse the expression — bullshit. But Ms. Padderson took every complaint seriously provided it was against a teacher she didn’t like, such as yours truly. I was able to satisfactorily address the first two complaints but the third one I laughed at. Out loud. It seems a student thought hat I believed I had an invisible pet duck. One of the reasons I cracked up was that she presented this complaint to me as if it was a very serious matter indeed. Well I had my chuckle and was on my way. I had more important things to do then waste time with an idiotic school administrator (oxymoron?).
The real story of my invisible pet duck was this: One day in class I called out two students for goofing off during a lesson. I was on the other side of the room at the time and they were amazed that I could detect their behavior from so far away with my sight line obscured. Actually it was as much intuition as anything else. I knew these two kids well enough to detect when they were off task even from a mile away on a foggy day. The young 'uns asked how I could tell what they were doing from where I was. I told them, in front of the whole class, that I had an invisible pet duck who reported what was going on to me. Students got a hearty laugh out of this and the two errant young men didn’t feel so bad because we were all having a yuk. The next day in class a student — jokingly of course — asked if my invisible pet duck were present. I said he indeed was so one and all should be on their best behavior. Everyone got a smile out of that if not an outright titter. My invisible pet duck became a running gag in the class that helped lighten the serious study of history that occupied most of our class time.
Evidently one student thought I really did believe I had an invisible pet duck. As I told the Associate Superintendent, this speaks more about the student’s state of mind then my own.
So one day I got the phone message that I was to down to the district office to see the Associate Superintendent. The message did not say about what. I doubted that it was to thank me for my continued service to the community. It had to be bad. I did one of those gulps you do when you’re scared. Of course I was nervous all the way up to my meeting with Mr. What’s-his-face (I’ll be damned if I can remember his moniker lo these 15 years later). You can imagine my relief when he told me that at issue was a duck. I couldn’t help but chuckle too. He was not amused. He explained that there were questions as to my sanity and the fact that I didn’t take the complaint seriously when the principal informed me of it was a bad sign.
It may come as a shock to those who are familiar with district level administrators, but this bloke was a reasonable guy. He perfectly understood and believed my version of the story and agreed that the reporting student may be the one who needed attention. He also cautioned me about future flights of fancy that might similarly be misinterpreted.
Being the bold rebel that I am, I informed the class the next day that I was retiring the pet duck and I explained why. Students were disappointed but simultaneously got one more laugh out of the duck, I’m afraid at the expense of the anonymous student whose identity was never known to me.
Sometime later a student gave me a drawing of me with a pet duck on a leash. It was titled: "Mr. Hourula and pet duck." It was a simple yet elegant piece of art that I proudly had on my class bulletin board until my last day as a public school teacher.
I guess I should be thankful that no one reported me for telling students that as a youth I worked on my uncle's donut farm. Because I said that. Yeah, I did.