Monday, January 24, 2011

Quotes of the Week

No narrative required. These quotes speak for themselves.

"Did you just poop out a sweater?!"

"Once I stole a cell phone from the cafeteria lady at (insert name of local middle school), and they be sending some nasty @$$ sh*t to each other."

"Did you realize the members of the Phoenix Coyotes are human traffickers? Actual human traffickers!" (No, he wasn't joking)

"Hey Ms. G, you guys look alike!" (Referring to a 5'2" African American man)

"No offense, but you kinda look like a hobo." (Yes, they were talking to me...and what is the obsession with hobos?)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Reason For the Security Call Button

Almost all the classrooms in my school have a mysterious black button on the wall, located somewhere behind the teacher's desk, just to the right of the telephone.  This button is NOT labeled. It's presence is RARELY questioned. It's purpose is NEVER to be discussed with students. And it is NEVER to be touched lightly.

It is to be pounded frantically three or four or even five times when a classroom situation requires back-up. It is the Security Call Button.

I have pressed this button exactly one time in my three years on this particular campus, and while the events are old, the story stays fresh. This is the story I tell at parties, when someone asks "And what do YOU do?", or when I need to break the ice.

This is the story of the only time I ever used the Security Call Button.

It happened in my fourth period class, a little over a year ago. Fourth period is right before lunch, which means the kids are usually a bit amped, and bit hungry, and a bit feisty. And if a particular student has a generally amped, hungry, and feisty character, well...that character gets magnified.

"Johnny" was just such a kid. He was actually one of my favorite kids...just not when he was inside the classroom. He was smart. He was friendly. He had a wicked sense of humor. But in class that sense of humor parlayed into inappropriate sexual or racial jokes. "Johnny" of course did not see the problem with that, even as the rest of the class was swinging from the rafters and I was trying desperately to hold it together. He loved the attention. Oh, and "Johnny" suffered from a touch of STP (Something To Prove) and vandal-itis.

What I'm about to tell you is second-hand information. I saw none of this transpire, and only learned about it later when certain sources were sure they wouldn't get pounded into the ground for telling me.

I was conferencing with students about the essays they were writing when "Johnny" had a sudden fit of vandal-itis.  He was supposed to be engaged in a peer-editing activity with a classmate, but instead he had grabbed a red expo marker from the white board, and was writing illegibly on every hard surface within a three foot radius. It just so happened that "Mikey's" desk was directly behind "Johnny's."

Now "Mikey" was significantly bigger than "Johnny," and significantly slower on the uptake, but he was a pretty jovial guy who didn't pose much of a threat. I'm particularly grateful for the last two qualities, because this scenario could have played out much worse than it did. But back to the story.

Apparently, "Johnny" had turned around in his seat and tagged on "Mikey"'s desk. Mikey, not wanting to take the rap for said vandalism, frantically wiped off the offending letters. On the streets, this is known as "crossing out," and it isn't done unless one is looking to get one's ass kicked.

"Johnny" stands up. He faces "Mikey". 

What I'm about to tell you is firsthand information. I could smell the tension. Tension smells like monkey-bar hands, or dirty pennies.

"You f----in' cross me out, man? You wanna go?" "Johnny" is standing in front of Mikey, with his hands up in a guard position.

Mikey grins goofily. He stands up. He doesn't know. He thinks "Johnny" is messing with him. "Yeah, man, we'll go!"

I heard the dull thud of fist on face before I saw the swing. As I looked up from the desk where I had been working, I saw "Mikey's" stunned expression. "Johnny" was bobbing and weaving, looking for the next shot. 
I also saw my co-teacher flying across the room toward the two boys. In a half second, I did a series of mental calculations for possible interventions leading to outcomes that would be desirable given the current situation. I could let them go. I could get between them myself. I could have a brawl of epic proportion on my hands if other students decided to get in on it.  Then I remembered. SECURITY CALL BUTTON.

SCB it was. I jabbed that button two or three times in rapid succession, then intercepted "Johnny." My co-teacher has already intercepted "Mikey" and escorted him from the room.

With "Mikey" safely away from the scene, I put "Johnny" out in the hall to wait for security. I returned to the classroom to get the other kids settled and focused.

Within seconds, a security guard cracks my door and beckons me into the hallway.

 "Did he take his clothes off before or after the fight?"

I'm speechless. Take his clothes off?


"His clothes, ma'am. When did he take them off?"

I step out in to the hallway. I see a pile of red and white at the security guard's feet...and then a pile of "Johnny" with his head tucked, looking sheepish.

I just shake my head.


To blog, or not to blog.

That is my dilemma.

Every now and again, I have conflicting feelings about whether I should be sharing some of my work-related experiences with people who don't know me personally. Those people won't know how earnest I am about my work, or how defensive I can get when it comes to my kids. They are children, after all, and I wouldn't want to come across as ridiculing or exploiting them in any way.

But on the other hand, they say and do some of the most bizarrely entertaining (albeit strange) things I've ever heard and seen. And I sort of want the public to know that there's so much more to teaching than, well, the textbook sense of the word. Sometimes, its a sociology experiment gone awry.

With that disclaimer, I throw caution to the wind, and I give you the first glimpse into the second semester. It is the story of the girl who tried to decapitate me with a single piece of paper.

Ok, I'm exaggerating on the decapitation part of it...but still, it was pretty strange.

School had just reconvened from winter recess, and it was maybe a Tuesday or Wednesday morning. Nobody had their mojo yet, and some of the kids were just out of sorts. Totally understandable. Then there were those kids who were so elated to be back, they couldn't contain their emotions. Or their need for attention.

My second hour class was just finishing up their bell work, and I was preparing to begin the days lesson. As I directed the students to put their journals away and take out their notes, "Jane" jumped up out of her seat, and walked up to where I was standing at the front of the room. She squared up to me a mere six to eight inches from my face, planted herself, and just stared.

And stared.
And stared.
And stared.

This, believe it or not, is the type of behavior that will usually extinguish itself if I ignore it long enough. I just have to act like her behavior is completely normal. But "Jane" was steadfast in her staring, and I started to get annoyed. I was forced to address it. Casually, I whispered to "Jane" out of the side of my mouth:

"Jane, I need you to sit down and take out your notes. We're starting the lesson now."

Jane: "I'm staring at you."
Me : "I see that, Jane. I need you to go to your seat and take out your notes."
Jane: "I'm staring at you. I'm staring at you and you're panicking."
Me:  "Panicking? I simply asked you to sit down and take out your notes."
Jane: "You're panicking. I can tell. You're a panicking person."
Me: (annoyed, but not panicking) "That's enough, Jane. Sit down please."
Jane: "You're so panicking. You're talking a lot, I can tell."
Me: "It's not panic, Jane. It's annoyance. I need to start class."
Jane: "Oh. Most people don't like to be stared at."
Me : "I'm used to it. I have over 150 pairs of eyes on me every day."
Jane: "Oooohhhhhhh. I get it. I'll have to think of something else."

Normally, "Jane" is a really nice kid, if a little needy, so I was sort of surprised by this antagonistic streak that she was displaying. But I am the eye of the hurricane; the haystack into which flaming arrows disappear with the faintest wisp of smoke. I remained cool and measured, even though she clung to me for the rest of the hour.

Finally, as the bell was about to ring, I asked the kids to turn in their "door pass." Most of the kids crammed the paper into my hand and were off to their third period with no hesitation. All except for "Jane", who stood in front of me, (can you guess?) and stared.

I stared at her.
She stared at me.
I waited.
She concentrated. Then she reached out...ever so slowly.... paper hovering weightlessly in space....and tried to poke me in the neck. 

"Jane! That's enough! You need to respect boundaries. If I can stick my arms out and touch you, you're too close!"

"Ok! Sorry Ms. G!"

And she was gone.