New Reputation: Selling Ducks

Apparently, it takes about a week in my class before my students stop being surprised when I ask them to do something like picking a rubber duck from a basket and writing a detailed presentation and sales pitch advertising their duck to an audience of robots who have just learned to love. It takes about two weeks before they trust that I have a pedagogical purpose driving what I ask them to do and they stop asking before they get started.

In my life, I haven’t been known for very much. There’s probably a sushi buffet with a picture of me on a wall, no way to tell if that means praising me for my work or condemning me for my single-handed attack on the delicious fish of the world. I’m pretty certain there is at least 3 living bicyclists who have heard me emphatically singing “lollipop lollipop oh lolli lolli lolli pop,” but the poison should be working on them soon. And, then there’s this blog where, I don’t know, people might know me as some kind of sour egg with many, many issues. Despite all that, I can’t say I’ve ever really had a reputation, but that might be changing, and I know that because my colleagues, like my students, have stopped being surprised.

Sometimes I see too much of myself in the art

I don’t know the reason they came to be there, but there is a basket of rubber ducks that had once been an actual child’s toys before they came to a small office in my building. Teachers are allowed to check them out if we want to use them for a lesson. This is a college campus. There aren’t any classes in which a rubber ducky might seem to belong. My students tend to range from 18 – 30 and often are married, have homes, have varied and full lives involving taxes and traffic tickets and vicious reviews on Yelp. Knowing all that, I check the ducks out at least three times a semester. I make my adults play with these little rubber duckies with their strange eyelashes and silly hats and amalgam of animal features. I love it, and my students seem to like it too. Who doesn’t love a rubber duck in their composition classroom.

You could even say that I finally have all my ducks in a row

I checked the ducks out yesterday. The office didn’t seem surprised, but why would they be? That’s what the ducks are for. They asked how I’d be putting this inexplicable basket of bath toys to use. I told them I’d be having my students pick a unique duck from the basket–there is a wide variety, including Dr. Ducks and ducks with the coloring of a rottweiler–and then they would have to sell make a presentation selling their duck to one of 4 audiences: adults without children, children who trust their parents and nobody else, hermits who have not left their forests in 20 years, and robots that have recently gained sentience and learned to love. Their response: “Oh, that sounds fun.” Nothing else. No call to justify my job. No concerned eyes wondering if I’ve come into work high on PCP. I hadn’t. There was no demand for further explanation because, finally, they just don’t care. They’re used to me.

Later, I told my students what they’d be doing in class, including their incoming opportunity for duck entrepreneurship. They laughed, but there wasn’t any question of whether or not this was something they should be doing in a college class. There wasn’t any request for an explanation as to what reasoning I could possibly have for asking them to spend 15 minutes drawing on giant pieces of paper different ads for their unique ducks. They’re used to me.

If I could keep this going for the rest of my career, I’d be happy. If I developed a reputation as the weird teacher with the ducks that makes you write about robots and lonely people and draws sad animals on the board and praises tea as if it saved her life and gives off the vague sense that it has been a really long time since being within 1000 feet of a store that sells clothes that have never been worn, I’d be pretty cool with that.

Maybe then the weird students would come to me instead of me having to coax it out on my own.

21 Replies to “New Reputation: Selling Ducks”

  1. You’ve reached teacher nirvana when no one bats an eye at what you’re up to. I can’t remember how many times fellow teachers asked me wtf, but at some point, it stopped. The life-sized guillotine may have been the last straw, lol. You keep bringing out the weird in the world; we need it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely feel like I’ve reached a turning point in my career in which I can kind of do whatever I want and as long as it’s useful nobody will question it.

      I am also beyond interested in this guillotine. I’ve heard of people preparing for the revolution, but this is more than I expected


      1. We were always putting on plays which we’d turn into movies because it’s fun and a crazy learning experience. We’d have script writers, actors, props people, the works. It was chaos, but everyone’s brains, skills, and love for humanity were tested, lol.

        Maybe 4 years ago they decided on reenacting the French Revolution to coincide with their studies on The Enlightenment– infuse some creative into the academic. One of my students, with the help of her dad, built a life-sized wooden guillotine complete with aluminum foil dropping blade and spray painted blood splatter! We carried it out into the courtyard and started filming. 😅It sat in the corner of my classroom for two more years to frighten and confuse new batches of kids. Teachers and admins just stopped asking what the heck was ever going on in my room. That’s the best 😄💜

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A little part of me was holding out hope that there was a genuine guillotine in a classroom somewhere, but that might have just been the weird part of my soul latching onto whatever it could.

        This guillotine origin story, however, is way better than me imagining you just finding one at a thrift shop and making the best impulse buy. It sounds super fun working with students making movies like that, and keeping it in the your room for new students is such a good call.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. One of my favorite parts of teaching English is that we can always find an excuse for whatever activity or subject we want to talk about. I love the loose cannon-ness of it all.

        Maybe one day you’ll be cruising a thrift store and come across some guillotine calling your name. My guess is you’ll think of a reason to buy it in 2 seconds flat.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. “Maybe one day you’ll be cruising a thrift store and come across a guillotine calling your name.”

        Yes, yes I want this to happen very much. In my transformation to the resident weird teacher, a guillotine just seems like a natural extension of who I am.

        Teaching definitely is the best thing I get to do. The captive audience listening to me talk about my favorite thing and the potential for weird props is just the best

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You have described what I used to do teaching mathematics. One of my favorite activities was having students enlarge a cartoon and write a mathematical caption for it. (Here is a link to see an example.
    They also wrote a children’s story of mathematical creatures based on Dr. Seuss’ book “If I Ran the Zoo.” We had a lot of fun–after all, that is what school is all about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm I couldn’t get that link to load, but I love the idea of adding captions to cartoons. I also have my students do a few children’s story activities, and they love them and so do I. This actually gives me a really fun idea for something I might do on Monday… Add captions to a picture book making some kind of argument that relies on the visual the caption is under, or something like that.

      You sound like a really fun teacher. Glad there are more teachers around that do fun, weird stuff that’s still useful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay, I want to be your student again. I would probably be paralyzed for a while by performance anxiety, then decide that my work would probably not be the worst you had ever seen and then have fun with the assignment.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’v recently learned some people are scared of me. Because you know, apparently I’m ‘too serious’ and that scares people. If only they knew … 😀


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