I’m Teaching Arsonists! Or, Mis Alumnos Intentaron Quemar el Cole

One of the little joys of being a teacher is the fact that work is never boring. Incidentally, it is also one of the pains of being a teacher. Last week, I one of those incidents.

I was torturing my 17-year-olds with presentations, yet again. This project was creative, which in Teacherland means there is great potential for problems, or explosions. The kids were presenting advertisements for any product they could think of. As they are teenagers, most of these products were predictable: phones, sodas, computers… And then came Alejandro and José Luis. Carrying a bag of potatoes and (what I sincerely hope was) a toy gun.

They had taped a ping pong ball to the tip of the gun and arranged the potatoes in a heap in front of the class. I, being an idiot, was excited to see what they had come up with. José Luis was playing a drunk Galician farmer, complete with fake moonshine (yes, I know it was fake, more on that later). The basic idea was, the gun was fantastic and would kill the birds bothering José Luis’ potatoes. So far, so good.

To demonstrate the gun, Alejandro set fire to the ping pong ball. Which they had apparently drenched in gasoline or something equally flammable. And not tested previously. Because no one was more surprised than my students at the flames that shot out of their toy!

Because 17-year-old boys are occasionally dumb, they proceeded to beat the flaming gun on the floor, trying to put it out. They succeeded in making a mess, charring the floor, and not putting out the flames. Luckily linoleum isn’t that flammable.
Now, remember the “fake” moonshine? Apparently it really was water, because someone got the bright idea to dump it over the flaming toy. Which worked, only because most of the chemical had burnt off.
Well, worked in the sense of stopping the flames. There was the little problem of the disgusting smoke that filled the classroom. However, no one died. And the boys managed to clean up their mess, mostly.

Thank God Spanish smoke detectors aren’t very effective!

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