Here is a story scenario you can use to help teach about the need to be diplomatic with adults in positions of power such as teachers, administrators, and parents. Valuing & Respecting Authority are two important survival skills that all thinking individuals need to display if they wish to get along well in this world. Students will learn when it might be appropriate to “eat crow” with teachers and other significant adults in their lives. One of the goals of this story is that students will increase the number of times they choose to “eat crow” with teachers instead of being rude or disrespectful.
Section 1: Denny Teaches Tom to Eat Crow
A. Teacher reads story to the class called “Denny Teaches Tom to Eat Crow.”
B. Story Description: Tom almost always got in trouble with his teachers while his best friend Denny rarely did. One day while the two boys were out fishing, Tom asked to know Denny’s secret. Denny, with the help of his grandfather, taught Tom the very important survival skill of learning how to “eat crow” with teachers, bosses, and other adults in positions of power.
Chapter 1: Tom Gets In Trouble
Thomas Dexter, better known as Tom or Tommy, walked in late to his 6th-period English class.
The teacher, by the name of Mrs. Jenkins, yelled, “Tom, I am fed up! This is the third time this week that you have been tardy. Every time you have some fishy kind of excuse. Well, this time, no excuses! You’re going to do 100 write-offs that need to be turned in to me tomorrow. Also, it must be signed by one of your parents.”
Tom glared at Mrs. Jenkins and yelled back, “That’s not fair! You just don’t like me!”
Mrs. Jenkins snapped, “Sit down and close your mouth!”
Tom stomped over to his desk and flung himself into his seat. He was silently fuming; nevertheless, he grumbled quietly under his breath, “You old crabapple!”
Tom could have said worse things, but he didn’t want to get into the kind of trouble that might cause the teacher to fill out a pink slip. Then he might be grounded by his parents for sure. Right now, there was still a chance they wouldn’t punish him just for being tardy a few times.
Just then, another student walked in tardy. His name was Dennis Salyer. Most of the kids and teachers called him Denny. Mrs. Jenkins was still feeling angry at Tom. She yelled, “Denny! Why were you tardy to my class?”
Denny knew better than to argue or to make up excuses. He realized that this would only make the problem worse. He calmly and politely said, “I’m real sorry! I’m not going to make excuses, and I will try so hard never to do it again.”
Pleased with Denny’s respectful attitude, Mrs. Jenkins calmly said, “Thank you, Denny. I’ll hold you to that agreement.”
No talk about write-offs. No anger. Just calm respect between teacher and student. This really made Tom jealous. He called out, “Hey, that’s not fair! How come I have to do write-offs and he doesn’t?”
Mrs. Jenkins knew better than to be sucked into Tom’s power-play attempt. She simply ignored him and began her class.
Tom slumped down into his seat, feeling angrier than ever. Under his breath, he grumbled, “I hate her! I hate Denny! I hate everybody!”
In reality, Tom didn’t hate anybody. He was actually kind of angry at himself for not having the sense to handle the situation better. He felt rather envious of Denny’s ability to stay on the teacher’s good side. Tom thought, “Why can’t I do that?”
Chapter 2: Tom and Denny
A couple of weeks later, Denny and Tom decided to go fishing on a sunny Saturday afternoon. They were having a pretty good time; however, Tom had something on his mind. He said, “Uh, Denny. Can I ask you something?”
Denny asked, “Sure, Tom! What is it?”
Tom said, “Well, remember a couple of weeks back when we were both tardy and I had to do write-offs and you didn’t?”
Denny nodded and said, “Yeah, I remember.”
Tom said, “Well, uh, …, what I’d like to know is, …, well, uh, …, how did you learn to do that? And can you teach me to do what you did, so I won’t get in trouble so much?”
Denny stared for a moment and then said, “Are you sure you really want to hear this?”
Tom insisted, “Yeah, I’m sure!”
Denny said, “Well, my Grandpa was in the Army way back. He fought in a war. He learned the hard way that if his Captain called him down for doing something wrong, he best not argue. Instead, he should just eat humble pie or EAT CROW.”
Tom laughed and asked, “Say what?”
Denny also laughed and said, “Those are idioms that my Grandpa told me about.”
Tom asked, “Id-i-what?”
Denny repeated, “Idioms. They’re expressions that mean something.”
Tom said, “Oh. Well go on with your story.”
Denny said, “Well, Grandpa said that in order to not be ordered to do extra guard duty or perhaps something worse, he would just swallow down any back-talk he might be tempted to make. He realized that the Captain wanted absolute obedience, and Grandpa wanted to stay in the Captain’s good graces. He was hoping to ask for a leave pretty soon to go and visit his family. He knew he best stay on the Captain’s good side. So he would EAT CROW or eat humble pie by shutting down any temptation to talk back or argue. Instead, he knew he better make nice. If he had to, he would even lie a bit and say, “You’re absolutely right! It will never happen again.” He made darn sure that his body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and word choices were absolutely polite and respectful.”
Tom protested, “Yeah, but it’s not right to lie!”
Denny explained, “Sometimes you have to weigh your priorities. That’s what my Grandpa says. Since his Captain expected perfect obedience and my Grandpa wanted to get a leave and maybe even eventually earn a promotion, he knew that it was just good common sense to use the best survival skills he knew.”
Tom wanted to be sure he understood. He asked, “So what were those survival skills?”
Denny continued, “Like I said, you need TO EAT CROW. Be nice. Make nice. Be polite. That will keep you in the good graces of ‘most any teacher or principal.”
Tom asked curiously, “So what caused your Grandpa to teach you that?”
Denny replied, “Well, a couple of years back, I was real good at doing that ‘attitude thing,’ as my mom likes to call it. I was always getting myself in trouble. One time, they called my parents in for a conference. The whole family came: Mom, Dad, and Grandpa too. Boy, was I humiliated! My family was real disappointed in me. Afterward, Grandpa took me aside and gave me a good talking to. Only he did it in such a way that I no longer felt embarrassed or angry. My Grandpa is a really good man. He and I are real close. That’s when he taught me how to stay out of trouble at school.”
Tom protested, “Wait a minute! He told you about the Army. What’s that have to do with school?”
Denny explained, “Now my Grandpa can tell this a whole lot better than me. Let me try to do it as close as I remember to the way he told it. And then maybe someday, you can meet him in person, and he can tell you himself.”
Feeling very curious and intrigued, Tom begged, “How about we go talk to him now? I kind of would like to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.”
Denny laughed, “Ha! Ha! Ha! Hey, Tom! You just used an idiom.”
Tom asked, “I did? What?”
Denny explained, “The expression about hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth is an idiom.”
Tom smiled rather proudly, “Oh, cool! My family has been using that expression from as long back as I can remember. Well, what do you say? Can we go talk to your Grandpa now?”
Denny smiled back and said, “Sure, why not?!!”
Chapter 3: Tom and Denny’s Grandpa
Tom and Denny gathered up their fishing gear and headed over to Denny’s house. Grandpa was out on the back porch doing some whittling.
Denny explained to Grandpa what they wanted. Grandpa was delighted to comply. He said, “All right, young’un! I’ll tell you just like I told young Denny here. You listen good, and you’ll get along real good with all your teachers at school.”
Grandpa put down the stick he was whittling on, and he began to explain, “Now, there are all kinds of people out there in the world that you are going to have to deal with. Some of those people will be your boss who decides whether or not to give you a raise or to promote you. It might be the person at the bank who tells you whether or not you can get a bank loan so you can buy that fancy car you’ve been wanting. It may be the car salesperson who decides whether or not he’s going to give you a good deal on that fancy car. It may be your Captain in the Army. It may be somebody else who seems to have a say about the quality of your life.”
Tom and Denny both nodded their heads. They understood perfectly what Grandpa had said so far. Grandpa continued, “Well, just like there are all kinds of people in the world you need to learn to deal with, there are all kinds of teachers you’re going to have to learn to deal with too.”
Tom quickly thought about all the teachers he had experienced and all the classrooms he had been in since kindergarten and said, “That’s the truth! I’ve had all kinds of teachers over the years. Some of them were great! But some of them were pretty mean!”
Grandpa said, “That’s right, Tom! Some teachers may have lots of patience. Some teachers may have very little patience. Some teachers may get mad easily. Some teachers may seem to you to be downright mean or disrespectful. Instead of getting all bent out of shape about that, just kind of step back and observe. Realize that the teachers are PLACEHOLDERS, so to speak, for many of the different kinds of personalities you will need to learn how to deal with out in that great big world of ours.”
Tom looked puzzled, “PLACEHOLDERS? I don’t quite get that.”
Denny said, “You know, Tom! Like for example, Mrs. Jenkins. You know she can’t stand to have any of her students be tardy to her class. She’s a PLACEHOLDER or a representative of a kind of boss that you might have someday or maybe even a bunch of bosses as none of them like to have their employees be late either.”
Tom nodded, “Oh, maybe I understand. So like since Mr. Campbell is really nice and respectful of us students most of the time, he’s a PLACEHOLDER for the kind of boss that I hope I get someday? Is that it, Grandpa? Uh, …, you don’t mind if I call you Grandpa, do you?”
Grandpa smiled in delight. “You go right ahead, young Tom. I would be mighty pleased to have you call me that. So, to continue, you can practice on those teachers. If you can learn how to deal with those teachers, you can learn to deal with life itself. But if you can’t learn to deal with those teachers, how will you ever survive your life as good as you can?”
Tom nodded his head in sudden understanding. He thought, “Yeah! I guess I could sort of practice on Mrs. Jenkins. I could try to be more respectful like Denny is, so that maybe, she wouldn’t give me demerits anymore or make me do write-offs. I guess I better learn how to do that now when it’s just grades that I’m getting. I sure don’t want to lose a job someday just because I don’t know how to deal with people like her and some of the other teachers that I have.”
Grandpa interrupted Tom’s thoughts as he pointed out, “Tom and Denny! You know that everybody’s different. Everybody has different responses. So instead of getting all bent out of shape about all those different personalities, just step back and think, “Well, isn’t that interesting!” Know that it’s not good and it’s not bad. It is just the way it is.”
Tom couldn’t help interrupting when he thought about how angry he was still about getting those write-offs. Forgetting all about how he had decided to be more respectful to Mrs. Jenkins, he changed his mind and said, “Yeah, but it’s not fair that the teachers get so mad when I do the littlest thing wrong!”
Grandpa commented, “I’m sorry to break it to you, but life isn’t always fair. There is always going to be an imbalance of power. You feel like you’re on the low end of the totem pole. You feel that way, because it’s the truth. You may feel frustrated with that. But that’s just the way it is. Life is just like that. You will always have people you will have to answer to and to please. That’s called survival skills. So you better get used to it so that you can survive your life much better.”
Denny reminded his Grandpa by saying, “Grandpa, Tom wants to hear about the humble pie and EATING CROW PART.”
Grandpa nodded and said, “All right. I was just getting to that. What kind of things do teachers get mad at you for?”
Tom didn’t have to think too long. He said, “Well, for being tardy, for talking out in class, for talking back, and for getting out of my seat without permission. Things like that.”
Grandpa asked, “And how do you react when the teacher reprimands you for that kind of behavior?”
Tom explained, “Well, I, uh, …, I get mad and well, …, I guess I talk back. I don’t like it that they are always picking on me like they do.”
Grandpa said, “Tom, when those things happen, instead of talking back, you need to look in the mirror.”
Tom kind of grunted, “Huh?”
Grandpa said, “You need to look in the mirror. You need to decide what your responsibility is in that situation.”
Tom asked in confusion, “Look in the mirror?”
Denny interrupted to say, “Yeah! You know, Tom. What I do is analyze what my body language and facial expressions are doing. I try real hard, like I did that day with Mrs. Jenkins, to watch my tone of voice and word choices.”
Grandpa nodded, “That’s right, Tom. You need to decide whether you provoked this situation by repeatedly doing the same bad behavior over and over again.”
Tom admitted, “Well, I was tardy several times for Mrs. Jenkins’s class.”
Grandpa smiled, “Good! It sounds like you are getting the idea. To continue, you need to think about how you are representing yourself in this situation. In order to survive any system, the school system, the job system, the Army system, any system, you need to watch your mouth, watch your face, watch your attitude, and watch your body language. It’s even sometimes a good idea to be kind to the teachers that you don’t even like all that much. Ever heard the expression, ‘An apple for a teacher?'”
Tom nodded, “Yeah!”
Grandpa said, “Well, you don’t necessarily need to bring that teacher an apple; however, just plain old being kind to the teachers you may not like can get you a long way. For instance, when teachers are writing midterm grades and your end-of-the-nine-weeks grades, they are going to think back to your attitude and behavior, and the kind of effort you put forth. Let’s say your grade is right on the border of a “D” or a “C,” a “C” or a “B,” or a “B” or an “A.” Well, if you acted good and tried hard, they probably are going to give you the higher grade. But if you did that “attitude thing,” then they probably will give you the lower grade.”
Denny said again, “Grandpa, Tom still wants to hear about the humble pie and EATING CROW PART.”
Grandpa said, “All right, I’m ready now. I just wanted to lead into it some first.”
Grandpa sat up straight, leaned toward Tom, and said, “In school and at work, it’s always the same. At work, the boss wants you to do a good job. You want to get paid and maybe get that promotion you’ve been longing for. At school, the teacher wants to be able to teach without getting bogged down with dealing with behavior problems. You want good grades or to keep the teacher off your back. You do that by staying on his or her good side. You want something from them. They want something from you.”
Denny said, “Hey! That’s kind of like that WIN-WIN Outcome Mr. Campbell is always talking about.”
Tom asked, “What do you mean?”
Denny said, “The boss wants a good employee and when she gets it, it is a WIN for her. The employee wants to keep his job or get a raise, and when this happens, it is a WIN for him. Same goes with the teacher! The teacher wants to teach without students being tardy or misbehaving. That’s a WIN for the teacher. The student wants to get good grades or to keep the teacher from getting mad at him. When that happens, it’s a WIN for the student.”
Tom complained, “For you, maybe, Denny. For me, it’s usually a WIN-LOSE Outcome where the teacher WINS and I LOSE.”
Grandpa said, “Tom! That’s when you need to realize that the teachers are the ones in power. So in that case, if a teacher reprimands you for acting up or being tardy, you are just wasting your breath arguing or bucking the system. In order to survive the system, I’ve taught young Denny here to EAT CROW, be nice, make nice, be polite. There are other, less polite terms for it. A few that are okay to say are snow jobbing, kissing-up, or sucking up. There’s also apple polishing. So next time the teacher reprimands you, don’t give her attitude. EAT CROW! Eat humble pie! Shut your mouth. Make nice. If you have to, even lie a bit and say, “You are absolutely right, teacher! It will never happen again.” This will immediately defuse the conflict and you have survived another day at school.”
Tom complained, “Yeah, but that’s going to be hard to remember.”
Grandpa suggested, “You might even want to think about it a bit in Army terms. Let’s say that a teacher reprimands you. Your first temptation might be to talk back or roll your eyes or make a face or hit your desk. Imagine that you are walking up to a guard house. The guard calls out:
GUARD: Who goes there?
You realize that the guard won’t let you in if you choose to give him any lip, so you swallow those negative words right back down. Just imagine him saying to you:
GUARD: I’m not going to let you in if you give me any lip! So you better swallow those negative words right back down, Mister! Or you’ll never get past me. But if you use positive words, you can get by me for sure.
You know that the guard won’t let you in if you make faces or roll your eyes, so you control your face and eyes as you imagine the guard saying:
GUARD: Don’t you roll your eyes or make faces at me, or you will never get past me! But if you look respectful now, I’ll be sure to let you pass.
You know that the guard won’t let you in if your body language doesn’t match your words and your tone of voice, so you make certain that your body language gives off only pleasant vibes as you imagine the guard saying:
GUARD: Young man! You better watch that body language now! Walk like a man, not like a little boy throwing a tantrum! If you walk with dignity, you can get past me for sure.
You use your power to put a halt on anything that might come off negative; therefore, the guard lets you come in. So, Tom, you just need to put a guardhouse in your mind. And if you’re tempted to fall back into old habits, imagine that guard challenging you with a:
GUARD: Who goes there?
And then you do whatever you have to do to make certain that the guard lets you in.”
All this certainly gave Tom a lot to think about. He didn’t just change his behavior overnight. But little by little, he practiced EATING CROW with this teacher and then another teacher. Each time he experienced success, he gained more confidence.
Then there came a day when he actually heard the teachers bragging on him about what a good student he was. It was Mrs. Jenkins. She said to another teacher, “That Tom has certainly matured! He is so polite and respectful now. I really enjoy having him in my class!”
Tom hid his pleasure, but he just glowed inside. He thought of Denny’s Grandpa and mentally said, “Thank you, Grandpa!”
Tom thought that one day, he might even go over to Denny’s house and thank his Grandpa in person.
Tom had learned that he had a lot of personal power. And because he guarded his behavior, his word choices, his attitude, his tone of voice, his facial expressions, and his body language, he found that he actually had more power rather than less. Life was getting better for Tom, day by day.
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