Sunday, December 19, 2010

Part 2-Why I sometimes wish I taught Elementary School

Today's entry is a continuation of the story began on my previous post. If you have not read that portion you should begin there.

So I did what every red blooded American teacher worth their salt would have done. I paused, stared into their eyes and for just a moment and searched their faces for signs of fear, which they should now be unable to hide. But it wasn't there and I went forward. Again no violence or obscenities, no use of the walkie-talkie to call for administrative back-up, nothing crazy...I just began to stand there in silence. This single act of desperation was so unexpected it took them a bit by surprise. In the past they must have encountered teachers who either gave up or lost it, at which time they would revel in their victory and recount it when they gathered for weeks to come. Like some close knit band of soldiers who sit around a campfire describing a battle they had just won sharing a common bond unknown to outsiders who haven't shared their experience. I would at least try and deny them that joy by staying put and stifling their fun.

They seemed to be going on instinct and not sure what to do next. They slowly began to move off and break apart, and it appeared as if the tide was finally turning in my favor. Seconds seemed like hours as I sat with arms folded, eyes glaring, and scowling in their direction. I moved in concert with them remaining at constant distance of about 10 feet. This kept them uneasy, unsettled, like a bunch of nervous animals on some African savanna knowing that just off in the distance beyond their sight were the lions on the hunt. The group now reformed into 7 or 8 students and shifted about resisting my presence and they began to talk about some nonsensical this and that. While it was now clear I wasn't going to win complete victory, I wouldn't walk away and allow them the satisfaction of seeing me retreat. While we were locked in this stalemate something then shifted the fate of all of us forever.

As I stood there trapped, the infamous "Orange thrower" reappeared. The one who had gotten us all into this who had apparently escaped sanction was back. Like many criminals he had returned to the scene of the crime. I wasn't sure at first. The clothes were different and he appeared aloof and unaware. But then he snapped a gaze in my direction and as our eyes met. I immediately saw his guilt and recognized him. This was supported by his bulging backpack(full of the red sweatshirt and the hat he had removed) and the "hathead" which rimmed his hair where the now hidden NY Yankees cap had sat moments earlier. Seizing this opportunity I disengaged with the group and I motioned him over and asked where he went. He decided to play dumb which I exposed through my wit and strategic questioning. His responses were delayed and inconsistent. I then told him we were going to take a walk to the office.

On the way he trailed a few feet behind(so I kept a nervous eye on him) and I asked him his name. "Bob Shapp”(names have been changed) came the reply. I said "Shapp?..." how 'bout we call you "shifty"? This feeble effort to regain my composure through my normal biting sarcasm and humor fell woefully short when it was clear he was unable to grasp the complexity of the remark.

Once in the office I debated the merits of submitting a DR(discipline referral). I went through the standard set of questions... Name?...Grade?..Ever been in trouble before?... the standard stuff. He countered with questions asking why he was there. Trying to introduce doubt into my mind. A second Orange thrower on the grassy knoll?...that sort of thing. It was somewhat sad to watch this all transpire. I interjected that I had known his older sister hoping that the small talk would make us both feel better. He said "I know her better". This helped me feel certain about my follow up. I regained my breath and my blood cooled and systematically and slowly narrated my actions for he and I to hear. While he responded to these statements at first, in the end his spirit was broken and he was either plotting revenge or too angry to play along. I next left him there on the bench for a few minutes while I left(just took a walk to look important and see who was around that administrative hall)and when I returned I closed with a final series of questions. I read the account I had written on the DRs(I wrote two up for the other two students who were the ones who really bothered me..sadly I'm not even sure how to hold them accountable or if I have their real names) and then capped each phrase with "Is that accurate? When he again failed to respond I said "I'll take that as a yes". Interestingly this whole process played out for several minutes next to another student who had been in the office since first period. He found my humor quite refreshing. He would throw in "Did you at least hit anybody?" and between the two of us we brought the entire episode to an uneventful but mildly comedic close(from a legal perspective, in court no doubt a lawyer could gain an acquittal but I when I mentioned we could watch the school surveillance camera he agreed we didn’t need to).

Since lunch was now over I asked what his next class period was..."Mr McMurray" was the response, "Is that MAC or Mc?” I spoke as I filled out the pass….hmmm, my last intellectual jab in this epic was not the most memorable but I had to finish him off. I wrote him a pass and as he left I stated "OK Mr. Shapp I feel like I've done a great service here today and the world is a safer place." Had I sunk that low or had I been pushed that far? The truth was not so clear. Whatever the case it all started with that damn orange and will likely end when I retire or move on from teaching(something that has entered my consciousness more often the last 2 years and something I’d never thought I’d even contemplate) I hung around for a few days and was a visible presence during next few weeks during lunch. Maybe I should have just walked away

In the days in between I spoke to him often and I made a point to actually stop to say him whenever we passed. For the next two years we spoke often. He was later kicked out of school for a serious incident which meant he was no longer welcome at the school.
Anyway I bet Elementary school has a whole different set of problems with the poopy pants and stuff...

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