Monday, January 17, 2005

The Last Party
The semester ends this week. It’s already over for all practical purposes, since I’ve already given my Finals, and the kids aren’t about to do jack-shit after that.

“Meester, no work today!”

“Meester, watch the movie! Why no, Meester?”

“Meester, the party! Please, Meester!”

“Yeah, c’mon mistah. Can we have da Cookie Party? C’mon! Idongivafuck, nigga.”

I tell them no every time. I would tell them no even if I was planning on giving them a party, but, unfortunately, there will no more parties in Mr. Babylon’s class this semester. Not if I can help it.

I did allow a party before Christmas. I wasn’t feeling particularly festive, or generous, because the kids had been really getting under my skin for the past couple of weeks. I’m not sure that they were acting any worse than usual (although I’m sure their behavior and work ethic certainly hadn’t improved any,) but I wasn’t handling it well. Call it stress, burn-out, bloodlust, whatever, but situations that I’d normally laugh off or ignore had me raging on a daily basis the last couple of weeks before the break, and I don’t make a good asshole.

Don’t get me wrong, I can be mean, exceedingly so, but I can’t do it consistently, and it’s not effective at all with any but the most spineless of students. It makes things worse, I’m sure. They feed off my stress and enjoy getting a rise out of me, basking in the animal fever of their nascent power. Once I get pissed and the troublemakers start really fucking with me a mob mentality takes over, and everyone gets in on it. The regular kids turn into screaming, shrieking, jerks, and the good kids start chatting or sleeping or doing their math homework or something.

That was happening, in one form or another, pretty much everyday, but I let the kids have a party anyway, mostly because I didn’t have the energy to try to make them do something educational, and didn't feel like lesson-planning. I didn’t buy them any cookies, or candy, or bring in games or music or anything. I just gave them free-time, and they didn’t seem to mind.

Things started off just fine. Roulo and Colombia and Frankie weren’t there, and I naively assumed that they were cutting, it being the last day and all. Without those three, everything was nice and calm. All the girls were sitting in a circle in the back eating cookies and candy and chatting amiably about novellas and novios and whatnot.

I gladly took a cookie and sat down with Animal Boy and a few other guys who attempted to show me how to play with Yu-gi-oh cards. All was well. Everyone was pleasant and quiet and having quite a nice time, until about five minutes into the second half of the double period when the gangstas strolled in.

Roulo, Colombia, and Frankie did not, as one might expect of a tardy student, quietly sneak into the back hoping to escape the teacher’s notice. No, these three stroll up, kick the door – hard – and make a goddamn entrance.

Their smoked-out eyes lit up like kids at Christmas when they saw that everyone was just chilling.

“Oh shit, nigga! We have party today? Idongiveafuck!”

They danced across the room, clapping and shouting, and giving dap to all the other students who stared wide-eyed at their brazen antics. Roulo and Colombia sat down on top of a couple of desks and began to bang out a rather hot reggaeton beat along with which they began a well-received call-and-response chant.

Condon. Condon. Condon, condon, condon.

This was disconcerting not only because it was loud, but because I had no idea what was being chanted, and could only assume it was offensive.

As the rest of the class got more into it Roulo dropped the bass on the beat by kicking the side of my desk cum 808, which made quite a racket. The class went nuts. One boy began to shriek at the top of his lungs like a frightened woman. Everyone was hollering and banging and chanting along, and it actually sounded alright. Loud, but alright.

The teacher next door, unfortunately, did not agree. I was told to, “Stop the banging,“ and I suddenly realized that perhaps this little mini-riot I had going on in my classroom was not entirely appropriate, even if it was the last day before vacation, and homegirl might ought to relax a little bit.

I had no idea, but things were about to get much, much worse.

I yelled and waved my arms and clapped my hands and flipped the lights, vainly trying to get the kids’ attention and calm them down.

“Just please stop the banging,” I implored. Do whatever the Hell you want, just don’t get me in trouble. Aight, kid?

The banging died down briefly but was quickly resurrected, this time with a new, much more disturbing, twist.

Roulo and Colombia got the beat, an impressive hands-and-feet “Gasolina” interpolation, going again, then let the rest of the class hold it down while they stood up, and began to dance more than a little suggestively. They then began to play “paper, scissors, rock” with each other, only in thier twisted version, whenever someone lost, they would remove an item of clothing. That's right, “Strip Paper, Scissors, Rock.”

First they stripped the laser-stitched leather jackets, then the oversize t-shirts, and finally the last layer of decency, the wife-beaters, which were halfway off by the time I realized what was going on and got up and across the room and in their faces.

Nose to nose with Roulo, who had a crazed, ecstatic and very far-off look in his eyes, I poked my finger in his face and told him, “Put. The Shirt. On. Now!”

He pulled the wife beater back down, and I turned around to deal with the shrieking boy, who was at it again, this time even louder and higher-pitched than before. I lost it a little bit on shrieking boy. He doesn’t understand English, so I let fly with a little blue language right in his ear.

“Jose! What the fuck is your problem?! Shut the fuck up already. At least the other kids are making music. You’re just squealing like a stuck fucking pig.”

Shrieking Jose, wasn’t sure what I had said, but my intentions were clear, and he clammed up fast. My problems were just beginning though. While I had been hissing wildly un-teacherly things to Jose, Roulo and Colombia had again removed their shirts, climbed up on their desks and were now stoking the frenzied crowd by slowly removing their belts and letting their giant clown jeans fall to their knees in an elaborate strip-tease.

I was fucked. Livid, then panicked, and ultimately completely helpless. Beaten. In my first moment of rage I considered kicking the desks out from under my little gangsta Chippendales, but somewhere deep inside a voice of reason told me that would end with me in a courtroom. I went to pull one of them down, but didn’t want to grab either of these gyrating 16 year old kids by their boxer-shorts, and abandoned that plan as well.

I screamed. I yelled. I gesticulated wildly, to no avail. At some point during all this the next-door teacher came by again, looked around, looked at me like I was a steaming pile of shit, told me to shut my kids up, and walked away.

I have never been more relieved when a bell rang, or when a party ended, in my life.

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