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Pop Quiz: Of Ferret Pee and Snake Hisses

No corny Valentines Day Stories for Pop Quiz.  I only recognize the true holiday of my birthday today!!! In celebration of this wondrous day I give you a corny teaching story instead.

Years and years ago I taught a physics lab class at a farm town University.  Normally, I would start my class out with a brief discussion about the physics of the lab and then demonstrate the lab for the students.  On one particular day, I was doing my normal routine and I had just turned to write something on the board when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a small blue bag a student had on the lab table shudder.  So, as I am talking away about Hooke’s Law I am thinking in my head did I just see that blue bag move.  No more than a second after that thought passed through my mind I saw the blue bag slightly wiggle back and forth on the table. Now this time I saw it with both eyes staring right at the object.  That blue bag moved I swear it moved.  I just knew something was not right.  I continued with the demonstration and watched the bag jostle about a little bit here and there.  I really thought I had gone completely mad because no one else including the student who had the bag nearest her noticed a thing.

Eventually, I was done speaking and I set the students off to do their work on the lab.  As I walked around and made sure everyone was managing the lab alright I kept my eye trained on the bag, which at this point was no longer moving.  Finally, I got to the table with the blue bag.  I looked down at it and then the student.  I asked very cautiously if there was something in the bag.  The student just giggled and explained that she had to bring her pet ferret with her to class today because he was sick and she didn’t want to leave him at home alone nor did she want to miss class. What could I do? I just shrugged and said make sure he stays tucked away.  She promised he would just sleep because he was sick so I went about the lab as usual.


Someone dropped the masses being used for the lab. The blue bag ferret woke with a start and darted out of the bag. Students recoiled in surprise. The ferret was on the loose. I ran to the door and closed it to trap the little  beast darling in. It jumped on one of the lab tables across the room and promptly peed on another students lab manual. I ran after the furry little demon darling with rage in my eyes as the owner softly called its name.

“Klepto…Klepto..come here little guy.”


We could not catch this darn ferret for nothing.  Finally, after several pee stops, a few turds, and a mess in the lab it jumped back into the small blue bag. The student who owned lil’ Klepto carefully picked him up and cooed at him as she left the classroom.  I got left with a giant pee filled lab room and quite a story to tell.

Now I tell you this little gem because there is no teachers manual for how to handle these unusual types of experiences.  I was a younger teacher at the time and in retrospect I probably should have told her to leave the moment I learned what was in the bag. However, now you can be sure that in my syllabus there is a line that reads:

    Students are asked not to bring animals (unless for special needs) to class.

Trust me that one sentence as weird as it may seem has saved me at least one more time.  The time that a snake hiss was heard in the back of the room and I read that statement aloud from the syllabus.  The student with the snake in his pocket without hesitation or question immediately left the classroom. Pheww!

This long winded post brings me to the Pop Quiz question for today:  Are there any unusual or unconventional rules on your syllabus or ( for K-12 ) in your classroom?

*I really hope I am not the only one with these strange experiences.


The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (ET).

Featured image: Woman with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci








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JoDee is an adjunct faculty instructor of astronomy and physics at various colleges around her hometown in the midwest. When she is not trying to get her cat, Pixel, off of her laptop she is observing variable stars and researching black holes.


  1. February 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm —

    I have a few Chemistry lab rules that might seem unusual at first glance. You are allowed 1 curse word if you drop something and it breaks. You are only allowed to call my name if you have dropped something, spilled something on yourself or something that is not supposed to be on fire is, otherwise you must raise your hand and wait until I get to you. This eliminates the panic-like calls where I rush over and then are asked Is this set up right?

    • February 15, 2014 at 8:35 am —

      LOL, Jennifer, those are great. My syllabus doesn’t have anything weird on it, though I tend to make them pretty irreverent in tone. There is a part where I say they can friend me on Facebook if they want but had better be ready to handle the truth.

      • February 16, 2014 at 10:37 am —

        I like the honesty you have about Facebook to your students. It shows them that “hey we are not robots we are human.”

  2. February 16, 2014 at 1:05 am —

    When going over the syllabus during the first class, I usually summarize the academic honesty clause as “cheating causes me to have to do a lot of paperwork, so please don’t do it or at least don’t get caught.”

    • February 16, 2014 at 2:08 pm —

      Heh. I’m on the academic integrity committee that deals with cheating cases, so I tell students that if no one cheats, that committee doesn’t meet, pointing out the win-win aspect of their making intelligent decisions in that regard.

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