This is a Catholic school story again .
I liked to have my classes make flour-and-water maps . A little geography . A little history . A little fun . There’s less and less of that kind of thing going on now in these days of testing , teaching to the test , and testing again . No test for flour-and-water mapping !
This particular year the students each chose a state . They made a dough shape of their state and I put the little dough states in an oven in the teachers’ lounge at a low heat to dry out .
In Catholic elementary schools , on Fridays , the school troops over to the church for noon Mass . So we were sitting in the church . One of my students said to me : Do you smell smoke , Mr. H ?
No , I didn’t .
I think I smell smoke , another student said . I didn’t . I figured that they were grasping for any little distraction . Concentrate on the Mass , I said .
And then there were sirens . A fire truck . Then more sirens . Fire trucks . Close by .
And then the light bulb went on in my head : I left the states drying in the oven !
I rushed out into a mass of firemen scooting around with extinguishers , walkie talkies . The school was surrounded . Fire crews were unravelling their hoses . It’s just smoke from the oven , one of them reassured me . No ignition .
No ignition , I told the principal as she rushed into the building . Black smoke billowed out the door as she entered . Open the windows , she said . You did this ? she asked matter-of-factly . She knew .
It was Washington , I said . It still had cardboard on the bottom and the cardboard caused the smoke .
Washington ? she said . She looked at me with an unexpectedly tolerant stare . Help me get this smoke out of here , she said . And she was done . She never said another word about it .
The fire department always sends everyone when it’s a school , the pastor said to me as he passed me in the hallway . He was carrying a fire extinguisher . I wonder what happened ? he said to the principal .
It was Washington , she said to him . He looked at her briefly as if he should know what she meant , and then he sped away with his extinguisher .