I’ve been slacking on the writing lately because I’ve been answering my phone more these past weeks to substitute teach–if that’s what you call pushing “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” into a CD player and selecting play for a high school welding class. Now, before you read the rest of my blog, let it be known that I do support public education. Shall I continue? I have to admit that Ferris Bueller was more entertaining than the last video I showed, entitled, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Anyone– Anyone?–arg, WE did.
However endearing those Ag Department students were to me, it was my most recent group of high school kids who seeped into my psyche. They were the equivalent to the timeless “Breakfast Club” core of personalities including the jock, the brainiac, the spoiled princess, the criminal, and the misfit.
Unlike the movie where five students serve their time on a Saturday (unsupervised), I subbed for a full-time teacher who
babysits oversees various teenage deviants in an abandoned music room every day for 6 hours. The ‘IS’ class is short for in-school suspension. Some served one hour for being late to their classes, or for not wearing proper identification. Some served for skipping out on Saturday school. Some came for violating the dress code policy. One poor soul was there for chewing gum.
My five repeat offenders rose to the top of the class like curd on seven-day old milk. There was the muscular boy wearing a clean white tank and hefty cubic zirconia rock earrings. He was hunted down by school security and brought to me an hour after class began. He brought nothing into the room beside his ego, which was probably too big to fit in a backpack anyway. He kept wanting to show off his pink referral slip from his back pocket like it was proof of his manhood. I discouraged him from making sport of who’s pink slip was “bigger” in a war of who’s-who among the in-school boys. Got to love that jock.
The brainiac was sent here for chewing gum and forgetting that his NFL tee-shirt was against school policy because of gang affiliation. He was the tall, pale and pimply faced nerd who had a public synapse right there in his front row seat. In his moral rectitude, he told everyone behind him to basically straighten up and shut up! All heads craned his direction and mouths were momentarily silenced before snickers and sneers once again ensued. The girl in the middle row spoke up for him saying, “Don’t make fun of him, he’s in my class and he’s nice.” The boy lingered after class long enough to apologize for “all the stupid kids.” I loved that his impulses were good.
There was a caramel-skinned princess who was sure her mom was going to kill her for being in here for dress code violation. I supplied a swatch of duct tape to patch the hole in her jeans while a boy who was watching contested, “Ah! You can’t see shit there anyway.” She had pretty eyes that kept peering at her reflection in the plexiglass windowed room which held nothing. Her nails sparkled and her hair might have too. During lunch, I gathered she had a bad ending with her last boyfriend, but had moved on last month to another guy. She was a stress-eater who felt sick after eating too many hot dogs, so she sat by the gray trash with wheels; her arms crossed over her abdomen. Her cleavage was probably more offensive than the hole in her pants, but I didn’t address it. I had a soft spot in my heart for her.
The boy whose phone I confiscated, became so fidgety and nervous, I was sorry I enforced the “no electronic device” rule. He acted like a criminal, coming near my purse to search for his lost body part. He begged and pleaded. I offered deals. He broke them. He cursed fluidly and most profusely about his displeasure of his free cafeteria lunch. He asked me if I had any food or if I could buy him some when I took my lunch if he gave me money. He lifted a school shirt, available for dress code offenders , and modeled it briefly before I told him he wasn’t keeping it. Loved his nerve.
The boy in the hoody, knee-high black socks and sandals, with died long blond hair was easy to spot as the misfit. He didn’t fit in with the boys, and sat on the girl’s side. He asked me a rapid-fire series of questions like, “Did you go to college? Are you married? Do you have kids? Do you love Jesus?” Then he asked me if I’d help him with a five paragraph essay after he finished tying yarn ribbons on his child development classwork. I was able to edit his paper, but wish I could have changed the content. His life in 5 points went something like this: ( 1) My dad left me and my mom when I was 3 , ( 2) I cried , ( 3) I wish I had a dad, ( 4) My mom is like my mom and dad both, and (5) people who have two parents are the luckiest people in the world.
I wished I could have pulled the slack tighter in all of their lives. I went home and pulled at loose yarn in my own kids.