Monday, January 23, 2006

Do Later
There’s one every semester, the kid that for some reason just rubs me the wrong way. He’s not necessarily the loudest kid, or the laziest, or even the most disrespectful, but there’s something about the guy that’s just completely and utterly unlikable.

This year it’s Ulises Guzman, a squinty-eyed portly little dickhead with a perpetual shit-eating grin plastered on his acne-spotted mug. Every day he walks into my class, screams “Hey! Babylon! No work today!” at the top of his lungs, walks over to the board and changes the words “Do Now” to “Do Later,” then sits down and proceeds to carry on a constant low-murmuring conversation, still smirking the whole time, with no-one in particular.

Every single day.

That “Do Later” joke was funny the first time I heard it in a Level 1 ESL class. Hell, I thought, at least they’re learning something. In an intermediate level class, for the one hundredth day in a row, not so much.

I won’t even go into the myriad disciplinary techniques I’ve tried with this kid, but suffice to say nothing makes a difference, so I’ve taken to simply drawing a deep breath, muttering “serenity now,” and calmly informing Ulises that I fail to see the humor in his repetitive, obnoxious, and disrespectful behavior.

He doesn’t get it.

So at some point in class I end up screaming at the kid to shut up, singling out his beady-eyed face despite the fact that there are plenty of other kids acting up. I feel a little bad about it, especially after he informed me that he’s diabetic.

He didn’t actually tell me he was diabetic, he wrote it in an in-class guided composition on the mid-term (tests being the only work he actually completes.) The kids were supposed to pick a theme that runs through a few of the stories we had read, and some of the options we had discussed (read: I had drilled into their thick skulls) were dishonesty, insanity, and death.

What can I say? I don’t write the stuff.

Anyway, Ulises chose the theme of “death” in his glorified fill-in-the-blank exercise masquerading as an essay, the conclusion of which asked the kids to connect the chosen theme to their own lives.

I have dealt with the theme of dead in my own life when the doctor tell to me I will cause my sugar.

So I feel bad about the way the kid gets under my skin (like a bamboo shoot under a fingernail,) but come on, really, I’m sure plenty of assholes get diseases too. Just because he’s got problems all of a sudden I’m supposed to like him?

The point, such as it is, being, as I’m sure you’ve guessed already, Ulises pissed me off the other day, and I crossed some kind of line.

He walked in and started in on his usual routine and, it being the end of the semester, I was in an unusually chipper mood.

“Ulises,” I sighed, shaking my head and smiling, a last futile attempt at the killing-‘em-with-kindness technique. “I’m gonna kill you… siddown!” So maybe kindness is a strong word, but I said everything good-naturedly and it was pretty obvious I didn’t mean it literally, just that he was, once again, getting on my last good nerve.

Ulises laughed, and continued to write on the board.

“You want I kill him, Mister?” asked Emilio, a hard-working but smart-assed little lambon.

“Please…” I implored exaggeratedly exasperated.

I turned around, went to my desk and began organizing my attendance and handouts and whatever else I had going on over there. I looked up half a minute later and Emilio, ever diligent, had Ulises up against the wall

I ran across the room and broke them up before any real harm had been done. I have to admit, though, for a split second there, I hesitated.

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