Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I am a hell-beast

Last week in Shakespeare class, I was dismayed to discover that I had a couple of girls passing notes. I mean, I know that kids do these things, but I'd already had to bring a couple of them up short for drawing on themselves with felt-tipped pens while I was boring the living snot-....I mean, teaching them about William Shakespeare's life. I am really jaded about my years in public and private schools: I felt that I spent more time making people mind so that I could do my job than I spent doing my job. Depressing.

So I was pretty steamed about the note passing. Not only because it meant that neither girl was paying a lick of attention to the play, but also because their note passing involved about four other people, which meant that those people were being distracted from what their parents paid me to teach them.

This week, as we got class started, I said, "I'm sorry to have to bring up a painful subject, but last week there was some note passing in class and I was really offended by that."

A hush fell over the class, although I noted several boys looking at me with gleams of interest in their beady eyes: they are usually the ones getting called on the carpet, and it was a rare treat for them to watch some girls getting the law laid down on them.

"I spent enough of my time," I went on, "telling students to pick up their heads or open their books or go to the principal's office or 'I hope you're ready for Saturday detention' and I'm frankly just done with it. I would appreciate it if you'd humor me and not give me a reason to take you to your mother, where I guarantee we will have an extremely embarrassing conversation. You do not know enough about William Shakespeare or this play to have the time to write and pass notes."

That was all I said. The girls told me later that the look in my eye indicated that I would eat the face off the next person who moved a muscle. My policy is to have a really sharp bark and put the frighteners on people so that I hopefully won't have to come back and bite them later, but I truly did not mean to make one girl cry later on.

After my little speech, I segued right on into the lesson and didn't refer to the note passing problem again. So imagine my surprise when I let the monkeys out of the cage at 3:30 and was putting my books and notes back in my tote bag and heard a small voice say, "Mrs. McKinney?"

I turned and saw Note Passer #2, aged fifteen, standing there, quivering. She looked like she totally expected me to whip a machine gun out of my bag and riddle her with bullets without even a "Say hello to my little friend" as a warning.

"Mrs. McKinney," she quavered, "I'm sorry about the notes. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway-..." -- at this point, tears began flowing in a torrent -- "....and if you want to, you can tell my mom, I understand and I'll never do it again."

I just wanted to sink through the floor. I considered telling her about my Bark Theory, but decided that that might be a tactical error that could be used against me later. I considered telling her that she could my Louis Vuitton handbag if she'd just not cry. I wanted to wring my hands and burst into noisy tears of my very own.

I cannot believe I have made one of my students CRY. My brother, who, if you can believe him, regularly makes misbehaving employees cry and even keeps a special box of tissues on his desk to soak up their floods of tears, will be so proud of me.

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