I’ve Got a Bridge to Sell You


All right, I confess.  Sometimes I have fun at the expense of my students.  But guess what?  They love it!  Case in point:

“Mrs. Acuna, look! The word ‘gullible’ is written on the ceiling!”  I’d stepped into the hall to talk to the principal, and when I entered the classroom, this was the greeting I received.  I, of course, refused to look up, no matter how hard my 8th grade algebra students pleaded.  I told them, “It’s a matter of trust – and I don’t trust you!”  They found this response hilarious.

With my peripheral vision, I could see a piece of paper stuck on the ceiling, and I knew without reading it what it said.  I left it there, enjoying the joke as much as the kids.

In the afternoon, my classroom filled with 7th graders arriving for biology.  One of them asked, “Why is the word ‘gullible’ stuck on your ceiling?”  I related the morning’s escapades and then added, “Do you know what Mrs. Varvil told me?  She said in the past it got so bad with people harassing other people about the word ‘gullible,’ they took it out of the dictionary!”

“Seriously?” asked Ali, with a puzzled frown.

“Well,” I said, “only in dictionaries published after 1985.  Mine were published in 1992.  They’re right behind Taylor, if you want to look it up.”  As Taylor grabbed a dictionary and began flipping pages, several students piped up:  “But – how can they take a word out of the dictionary?  What if people still want to use it?”

“Oh, you can still use it,” I assured them.  “You just can’t find it in the dictionary.”

Kayla, who’d moved around the table to look over Taylor’s shoulder, exclaimed, “Here it is!  It’s in this dictionary!”

“Really?” I said, sounding surprised.  “What does it give as a definition?”  As Kayla looked back down at the page, I caught Monica sending me a knowing glance.  As far as I could tell, she was the only one who knew what was going on.

“‘Tending to trust and believe people, and therefore easily tricked or deceived,'” Kayla said.

Looking her straight in the eye, I said, “Exactly.”

As realization dawned, she said, “Oh!  You!!”  Though she tried to look mad, a sheepish grin spread across her face.

It took about 10 minutes to explain the joke to the rest of the class.


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