Chicken power. It is very real—real enough to compel 192 people to pay $3 each to “get in the coop”, so to speak.
Friday Ogden Preparatory Academy (OPA) held its annual fund raising carnival, complete with a bouncy slide, human bowling balls, an “OPA Has Talent” competition, a flag football tournament, fishing pond, face painting, and a petting zoo. In two hours, my “I-want-to-go-to-Havasupai-but-am-having-a-difficult-time-raising-the-money-to-pay-for-the-trip” participants earned $575 at the petting zoo, helping children of all ages interact with my neighbor’s rabbits and goat and our chickens, pig, snake, and dog. Though the snake had its own special charm, once again, the chickens were the people’s choice; something about catching and holding hens kept them coming.
Though I enjoyed watching other people’s students enjoy the animals, watching my students was the highlight of my night. They were amazing—those darling 8th graders of mine. Most of them are city kids themselves but they learned quickly and taught effectively. “Catch a chicken and offer it to the children to hold,” I instructed Marian. ALARM flashed across her face. “I can’t do that,” she said. I showed her how and showered her with encouragement. For the next 30 minutes she followed a chicken around the enclosure, willing herself to pick it up. She’d reach for it, almost touch it, and pull her hands back at the last minute. Determined to make it happen, she refused to give up and before the night was over she was catching and carrying chickens and teaching others how to do the same.
Tresse said to me, “I want to be in charge.” Fabulous. I put her in charge and it was the smartest thing I’ve done in ages. She took over and managed everything, making sure all the zoo visitors got a chance to pet and/or hold the chickens and rabbits, assigning her fellow OPA 8th graders to protect the animals, sending co-workers on breaks at regularly scheduled intervals. She was incredible and I was amazed…and very grateful.
It turns out that Damian, the kid who is charmed (and calmed) by snakes is a charmer-with-snakes as well. Repeatedly I watched him gently approach snake-phobic youngsters, calmly introduce them to the reptile, and kindly encourage them to touch it. Quite often they were holding the snake before the interaction was over.
“Seth,” I said, handing him a 5 gallon bucket, “the pig needs water. Fill this please.” Five minutes later he was back, empty-bucketed. “There is no place to get water,” he explained. “Sam,” said I, “the pig needs water. Do what needs to be done to make it happen. Fill this with water.” Five minutes later he was back with a full bucket. I don’t know where he got it and it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he took the task and accomplished it. LOVE IT!
Bringing the pig seemed like a good idea at one time. Though not as popular as the chickens (who’d have thought?) she was certainly an attraction. She was also hungry and irritable by evening’s end. Though I did not interview her, I can say with certainty that she was not feeling very cooperative and walking up a ramp to get into an enclosed trailer was not top of her list of things she wanted to do.
People were absolutely awesome about helping us load her. They lined up, forming a human wall from the petting zoo enclosure, across the lawn, and onto the pavement where the trailer was parked. What they did not know and what, luckily the pig did not teach them, is that if the pig had wanted to escape, she would have gone right through them. Pigs, unlike cattle and sheep, are no respecters of persons; they have no qualms about plowing through people. And, because they are short, dense, and very heavy, there is very little a person can do when a pig decides to go through. (Ask Lance! :))
Fortunately pigs are respecters of panels. If they see a solid board or panel, they (usually) do not go through it. With a single panel, a bucket of goat grain, and, I suspect, with a lot of help from guardian angels we managed to get the pig into the trailer.
So rewarding! Long. Hot. Tiring. But so rewarding! Seeing so many 13-14 year olds step up to the mark, assume responsibility, work hard, take leadership, and develop the confidence that accompanies authentic achievement…priceless!
At evening’s end, just before driving away, I gave Damian a hug. “I want one too,” Andrea said, arms outstretched.
Have I mentioned that I love my job?