Carrots and character education.

At school, the library is across the hall from the ISS room. Did you have ISS at your middle school? My middle school was so small that we didn’t have anything like that. We did have it in high school. I only went in the ISS room one time in high school, for a meeting. I wish I had a great story to tell you about how I had ISS for some dramatically terrible thing that I did, but it was just a meeting and that was the only room available. All I remember is that it was not the happiest of rooms.

I don’t know what kinds of rules there were for ISS back in the day, but here are some things that seem to go on these days. When you are in ISS at my school, you do not get to go to the cafeteria. A bag lunch is brought to you. I am not completely clear on whether you get to choose what type of sandwich you want, but you get a sandwich and some fruit and some veggies. And white milk, no chocolate milk for you if you are in ISS. This punishment, from what I can tell, is worse than actually having to be in ISS.

One day, I had to help out in the ISS room during lunchtime – something about a missing lunch or someone needing a bathroom break or something. Now, listen. Sometimes I say that I had to help cover ISS for a few minutes and people say things like, “Well, how did THAT go?” There is no need to be snide. I can handle the students who are in ISS. Mostly they are fine, and they don’t give me any trouble. In some rare cases, I may have contributed to them being in ISS, but mostly I am just the friendly librarian who helps them find books and do things on the computers. And when there is trouble, well, if you think I am a pushover, you are sadly mistaken. Sit back down and be quiet. NOW.

On this particular day, the students were eating their lunches and one of them went to throw out his trash. I saw that he was throwing out a little bag of baby carrots, and I asked him, if he wasn’t going to eat them, could I have them? He seemed surprised, and handed them to me. I told him, in a conspiratorial way, that I have a fat rabbit who would really like the carrots. He smiled in that way that teenagers do when adults around them say things that are completely crazy. I smiled back. (I get that smile a lot.)

When the ISS teacher came back, I mentioned that I was taking the carrots, that Big Bunny would be glad to have them. He said, “You want the carrots? We throw carrots out every day. I will save them for you.” Now Big Bunny gets unwanted carrots from ISS every day. Sometimes a student even gets to bring them to me. I like to think of it as character education: those students can do something nice for a fat rabbit who hates her humans. Big Bunny now knows the sound of the carrot packages, and I like to rustle them as I take them to her cage, because she gets so excited to hear the noise. She likes food-related noises. Boxes of crackers opening, bags of tortilla chips, cereal boxes. For the health nuts among you, there are some vegetable noises, too, like when we snap celery or carrots so she will know she is about to get some. I don’t open the bags of carrots, because I like to watch Big Bunny attack them. She shakes them like you would imagine a cat shaking a mouse. Those carrots are not going to survive the attack of the overweight rabbit.

I know what you are thinking: Oh, my gosh, it’s no wonder she’s so fat. I cannot argue with you there. She enjoys her food.

Also, you are wondering whether we are depriving the ISS students of their carrots. I have wondered that myself. Maybe they want to save their carrots for later, or maybe they feel like they have to give me their carrots. I asked the ISS teacher about this once. He looked at me, laughed, and said, “If I let them keep the carrots, they would just throw them at each other.” And now, when he brings them across the hall, he often tosses them at me, as if to remind me of the good deed I am doing for him by taking these carrots off his hands. (I have gotten to be quite good at catching bags of baby carrots.)

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