Youthful Science Lesson Didn’t Quite Work Out


My daughter once had an elementary school teacher who posted a permanent little sign on her blackboard that read, “The three best things about teaching: June, July and August.” I think it was supposed to provide some kind of motivation for her, but my thought was more of how it was motivating the students. I’m sure they were thinking, “The best three things about this teacher: June, July and August.”

Well, that teacher eventually got canned (something to do with her boyfriend swinging a gun around rather than her teaching philosophy), and my daughter was able to overcome any harm the woman had caused during her tenure.  Still, I feel sorry for the students who were perhaps unable to overcome it — or simply unaware.

Myself, I had a third-grade teacher who had us illustrate her philosophies on electricity. I call them “philosophies” rather than “science” because of my father’s reaction when I came home and showed him the “A” I’d gotten on my drawing.

“Why does this bird have big X’s over his eyes?” my dad asked.

“He’s dead,” was my guileless reply.


“Well, on the top of the page, you see him sitting on a telephone wire with his eyes open, and then, on the bottom of the page, he’s dead,” I explained.

“But why is he dead?”

“Because he lifted one leg up too soon,” I said, matter-of-factly. “My teacher told us that a bird’s feet have to leave the wire at the same exact instant or they break the circuit and electrocute themselves.”

My father exhaled slowly. (Back then, parents tried to support their children’s teachers to the best of their ability. Today, that bird incident would probably have ended up in a lawsuit.) “But there would be dead birds under all the wires!” my dad said. “It’s almost impossible for a bird to lift both legs off the wire at once. And didn’t you say this was a telephone wire?”


“Telephone wires don’t even have the electrocution capabilities! They’re only 12 volts, 24 if a call happens to be going through. And the bird isn’t grounded!”

“But my teacher said… ”

“OK, maybe if the bird happens to have one foot on a bare wire and the other foot on a ground wire, then maybe… ”

“…the circuit gets broken,” I finished.

Yay! I was definitely an A student.

But you know how kids are. I spent the week afterward searching for evidence by walking strictly pole-to-pole under wires looking for dead birds to back up my teacher. No luck.

Dad? He took care of things via parent-teacher conference.

The point of these two tragic stories is to encourage parents to be more like my father and less like me.

While I am basically non-confrontational and didn’t want to tattle on the teacher to her higher-ups, Dad spoke with the teacher face-to-face, trying to educate her a little bit on the “science” she was teaching.

It’s not required that parents keep teachers in line. In fact, teachers hate it. But when it’s something as important as legions of dead birds or publicly counting down the 165 days left in the school year, something should be said.

We owe it to our children.