Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Go Crazy
After three mostly wasted days last week, the kids finally started showing up in significant numbers yesterday. Things are going just fine so far, considering, and there has been a notable lack of the usual first week gang violence. Maybe it’s the absence of new freshman this year, or maybe they’re just waiting until they’ve all turned in their all-important lunch-applications so they can get their Metrocards (which determine how much money Shitty gets per pupil and are now being used as blackmail.)

I spend my free-periods keeping up with grading (that won’t last) and un-stacking and unpacking boxes and boxes of books. My classes are pretty well behaved—a couple are great, like perfectly frightened little orphans—and we’ve been practicing our soul-killing procedures and having spirited, productive, discussions about Jabbor Gibson and Deamonte Love. Even my stifling hot, packed tighter than (and smelling like) a cross-town bus, class of 37 young learners is relatively calm, if chatty and understandably grumpy. We don’t get anything done, and it took me an entire period to get halfway around the room checking homework, but there has yet to be a riot.

In fact, if it weren’t for the physical conditions and a few notably difficult and disagreeable folks, my job would be dangerously close to tolerable.

There is the AP, of course, who, straight beastin’, has banned the infamous coffee-maker from our tiny new department digs. She doesn’t want her bosses coming by and seeing things in a clutter.

Principal Popeil is still around too, though we don’t see much of him down amongst the roaches in our out of the way little hole.

A more constant annoyance is Ms. Wayne. You remember Ms. Wayne? Ms. Wayne, who as a farewell gesture on the last day of school, in a moment so sublimely awkward it could have made David Brent blush, serenaded our entire department in an operatic style? She’s back.

She told everyone she was leaving, volunteered to be “excessed,” and then showed back up at the beginning of this year as if nothing had happened. I suspect it is an elaborate ruse to work as little as possible, and it seems to be working. She has nothing to do, no classes to teach, only to sit all day everyday in the department office snacking on Kraft Singles and bitching and moaning and complaining about every little thing while around her everyone else busily goes about their day.

If anything could be more awkward than sitting through Ms. Wayne’s horrendous musical performance, it is sitting in the office as she blathers on and on and no-one so much as grunts in response.

In the classroom so far--and we are, admittedly, barely out the gates--my consternation is much less than last year. Take the example of one rather large young man who scared the living shit out of me yesterday as I scribbled vocabulary words on the board.

His jaw was set, quivering slightly with the force of the tension with which he held it. He stared at me, unblinking, his narrow black eyes boring into me with such intensity I thought he might rip the top off of his desk right there and begin to savagely beat me over the head with it.

I was terrified. I moved to the left a few feet and his eyes followed me without missing a beat.

“Is there a problem, Gerrardo? Are you ok?”

He nodded, barely, never deviating from his stare of death.

I had no idea what was going on. It was the first day, I couldn’t imagine what I had done to anger this kid so much that he was ready to murder me right there in front of God and the rest of his transitional ESL class. Had I unknowingly committed some sort of grievous cultural taboo? Was he that offended by being asked to raise his hand as opposed to calling out?

I continued to teach, moving around the room, my eyes every so often darting over towards Gerrardo and quickly looking away upon confirmation that he was still glaring at me like I’d just pissed on his mother while wiping my ass with a Dominican flag.

By the end of class I was ready to dive out the window to escape the violent beat-down I was sure to suffer at the hands of this hateful kid, but managed, after I wrote the homework assignment on the board, to sneak one last look his way.

He was staring with that same concentrated intensity, the entirety of his will focused, only this time his angry laser-vision was boring a hole into the chalk-board as he painstakingly copied the assignment.

Gerrardo wasn’t mad at me, just real serious about paying attention in class.

There is one kid who really is a problem though, a tiny little punk in a glittery snowman tee who never shuts up, never stops stepping to me and popping his collar.

I'm firm with the little dopeboy. I'm patient. I give him a look when he mouths off, a little hand-gesture to sit when he's out of his seat. I show him the zeros he earns at the end of every class. I even pulled him outside and calmly explained how things are gonna be. So far, nothing works.

I’m trying to remain tough yet cool-headed, but it's kinda hard to be a hard-ass, when that little shit won't stop being an ass.

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