Tuesday, February 15, 2005

My Bad Day
Things are going very well for me so far this semester. I somehow lucked into having only one prep (down from five last semester,) am no longer teaching the extra class, and have a couple of really good groups of kids.

It’s great. I prepare one lesson for each day, refine it as the day goes on and get to see how different groups of kids react differently and have an easier or harder time with certain things. I have time to stay caught up on all my correcting, and have refined and been diligent about keeping a grading system that centers around the pedagogically innovative concept of giving kids zeros when they won’t shut the fuck up.

I still have my two worst classes from last semester, and I have a few new kids who particularly get my goat, but overall, even as Shitty gears up to shut down, things are looking up.

That doesn’t mean my days are without their annoyances, and it doesn’t mean I’m all smiles all the time. Monday afternoon I had a little meltdown.

There’s a new teacher in my department, filling one of the many vacancies. Ms. Wayne is a very proper woman of Caribbean descent. She’s buttoned up so tight her magnificent and highly rouged cheekbones verge on explosion, and she’s always huffing and puffing and over-enunciating about unacceptable behavior and how things are going to change im-med-i-ate-ly. It’s fine with me. I think the kids need to learn how to deal with an authoritarian bitch just as much as they need to learn how accept their own responsibility in my relatively freer classroom. And if she can shape these kids up, more power to her.

Ms. Wayne has all the kids in my 10th period class in the same room right before I do, so when I arrived to class on Monday I expected her to have them cowering in their assigned seats, ruler welts raised red on their freshly reformed knuckles. Instead I find them running around in circles climbing on desks and hanging out the windows as Ms. Wayne, who hasn’t erased the board or straightened the desks or picked up any of the dozens of scattered paper-ball projectiles, calmly gathered up her stuff.

I was annoyed, and grew more-so when I noticed three kids who I’d never seen before leading the rampaging pack. I stood in the door and simultaneously tried to usher some stragglers in, calm down the kids in the room, and get the interlopers to leave. The first two interlopers left immediately, but the third decided to give me a hard time. This gangly punk, gangsta beads swinging, hopped up on a file cabinet.

“Time to go,” I said.

He kicked his legs, banging his Timbos against the file-cabinet.

“Now,” I said.

Other than kicking the cabinet again, he didn't acknowledge me at all.

I walked over and got in his face. I was pissed. I bit my lip, cocked my head, and bugged my eyes.

“Let’s go. Bounce.”

He got up, puffed his chest out, and bobbed and weaved a little.

“Chill out, nigga. It’s all-good.”

“Yeah, It’s 'all-good.' Get out.”

He began walking, sauntering really, towards the door, mouthing off the whole way about how he was from the streets, the school of hard knocks, etc. He finally made it to the door where he stopped.

“Aight, mista. Just chill. I’ma stay here.”

I held the door open, clenched my jaw, and pointed for him to leave.

He mouthed off a little more, then began to slowly back out of the room. As he stepped out into the hall and I started to turn around, he jumped back into the room and kicked over a small metal trashcan which went clanging out into the hall as he ran away whooping and screaming.

I stepped into the hall and watched him skip away. A few kids looked on and giggled, but there were no Deans or Security to be seen. I reached back into the room for the phone only to discover that the handset was missing.

That’s when I snapped. If the little punk had been in front of me I would have punched him the neck. He wasn't, so I did the next best thing. I inhaled, stepped into it, reared back and booted that goddamn trashcan as hard as I could. It went flying down the hall with papers and candy wrappers scattering everywhere. It hit the wall and bounced about twenty more feet before it spun to a stop.

The kids in the hall stared at me wide-eyed. I turned and walked back into my class to see all my kids scrambling for their seats with a mixture of fear and bemusement in their eyes.

“Mista, whatchu gonna do to that kid, you see him on the street?”

I sighed wearily, and shook my head.

“Mista, you need to calm down.” This was said with a mixture of reproach and genuine concern. I managed a weak smile.

“Mista Babylon be havin’ a bad day.”

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