The students in Lydia's first grade class have been overexcited by Halloween preparations. Lydia has just managed to calm them...
On this particular day, my handwriting lesson strategy was successful and I heaved a quivering sigh of relief as I drank in the silence in my classroom. There was no noise but the scratching of pencils across paper, and I was actually considering a return to my lesson plans because I had scheduled a science lesson on floating and sinking. Adding water laden and throwable objects to the frenzy brought forth by the preschool parade would probably not have been prudent, but just as I was pondering all this the door to our classroom was flung open and the children and I were confronted by an apparition so incomprehensible that we were startled into complete silence.
There was a seven foot tall chicken standing in the doorway. It was white with a large red cockscomb that flopped to one side atop the feathered head. Within the depths of the partially opened beak I could see a pair of human eyes peering out at us, but they were veiled by a translucent film of black fabric and I could not identify the person behind the mask as either friend or foe. The chicken was so tall that it had to bend its orange clad knees in order to shuffle through the doorway. The door swung shut behind it with a loud click and my students and I found ourselves trapped in the classroom with a giant chicken blocking any hope of escape. It stepped further into the room and without warning stretched its wings to about a ten foot span and let loose an ear piercing squawk.
The children’s reaction was immediate and alarming; each of them levitated to their feet, screamed, and scrambled for cover. None of them ran to me because I was standing nearest the doorway and the consensus seemed to be that if the chicken wanted Teacher for lunch there was nothing they could do about it. Mitchell jumped onto a chair and began frantic efforts to raise one of the large, double hung windows, but it was too heavy for him and his escape attempt was foiled. This was fortunate, because although our classroom was on the first floor, the basement windows of the building were above ground and there was a ten foot drop from the window sills of our room to the concrete sidewalk below.
All this takes time to write but happened in a just a few seconds and I had no opportunity to intervene in any way before the chicken, apparently startled by the children’s fear-filled reactions, beat a hasty retreat. The door swung shut behind it and I instinctively stepped forward, pulled the skeleton key from its hook, and locked the door. I called to the children to assume their “stranger danger” positions, quickly covered the door’s window with a piece of poster board, and flipped off the lights; just as our well-practiced intruder drill had taught me to do. The theory was that if a dangerous person entered the building, he or she would be less likely to force entry into a room that appeared to be empty. “Play like no one is home,” our counselor had said. And so despite the fact that the chicken was already well aware our classroom was inhabited, the children sat quietly hidden from view in the coat closet. I noticed that most of them had confused the tornado drill protocol with the intruder drill instructions and were crouched on their knees, hands clasped behind their lowered heads. I looked uncertainly down the row of small bottoms perched high in the air and then moved to the doorway. As the seconds ticked by I realized that if the chicken had been dangerous that screaming children would not have frightened it away. I hesitated, then unlocked the door and stuck my head into the hallway. There was no sign of the chicken.
For excerpts from My Mom Has Alzheimer's: Inspiration and Help for Caregivers, click here:
Lydia calls this stretch of road "the straightaway." She travels it each morning on her way to work at Karola School.
Kansas sunflowers line the road ditches in September.