75 minutes on a Friday

Holy cow, the stock photos you find when you Google “School fights” are totally hilarious.

There’s a lot that isn’t stock photos, of course, but I feel like taking a picture of somebody’s baby about to get their ass beat and putting it on my stupid little website maybe isn’t the move.

Let’s talk about my Friday.

I basically eat school lunch every day. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s relatively inexpensive– the entree they give the kids costs the teachers $4 and I typically buy two, so $8 a day– and shut up, everything generally tastes just fine. Plus I don’t have to think about it (at all) or go anywhere, and I only get half an hour for lunch so anything that cuts out bullshit from that time is just fine. I walk my kids down to the cafeteria, grab my lunches, precariously balance one atop the other, go back to my room, and eat there, alone and in peace.

(Weird thing about this building: every other school I’ve taught at, the teachers generally eat together somewhere. Not here. Everyone retreats to their rooms. I generally don’t mind the quiet, but it would be nice to have someone to talk to once in a while.)

Friday, 1:00 PM. I have my lunches and am preparing to exit the cafeteria when I happen to glance to my right and see one of my students stand up, lean across the lunch table, and punch another one of my students directly in his jaw. There’s some power behind it, too; the kid’s head snaps back and I can tell he’s hurt. Amazingly, he doesn’t stand up or attempt to retaliate.

Shit.

Without putting my food down, I manage to get the hitter to take his own ass to the office and check with the kid who got punched, who, unsurprisingly, wants to see the nurse. Who isn’t in her office, so I need to find her, still with the kid in tow. I find the puncher trying to leave the office already and usher him back in, explain what happened to the secretaries, and tell them that the security guard also saw it (which is true) and that I’ll get it written up as soon as I find a place to put the hit kid, who for the purposes of the rest of this post I’ll call Hosea.

I find the nurse and get the kid taken care of. He’s in my fifth and sixth hour, which is right after lunch, but at this point I’m assuming I’m not going to see him. I get the office referral written. I have sixteen minutes left in my lunch. I eat. I do not have time to piss.

I get down to the cafeteria to pick my kids up and they start lining up when I perceive a ruckus taking place behind my line. I investigate to discover several of my 8th grade boys holding back another of my 8th grade boys. I look around for the other fighter and can’t find them, but it’s clear this is serious– if they let go of this kid he’s going after someone, I just can’t immediately figure out who it is that he’s mad at. At one point he gets loose and then I get to hold him back for a minute, but mostly these two particular kids have him under control while a bunch of others hoot and holler and generally make asses of themselves. I dismiss my line of kids with a wave and holler at one of the custodians to radio somebody— I don’t give a fuck who, but I need somebody higher on the totem pole than me down here, or at least the security guard, who is in the hallway.

We eventually get the other kid calmed down, and figure out who he’s so pissed at– a student who has, wisely, disappeared from the cafeteria– and I bring the holder-backers up to my classroom so I can write them passes to class, since they’re good and late by now but I figure it was for the right reasons. I discover the principal in my classroom; he heard about the ruckus on the radio but was already on the second floor and so, wisely, realized that I wasn’t going to be up there to cover my class so he sat in until I got back up there.

I like my boss, have I mentioned that?

A class period passes, and during passing period between 5th and 6th Hosea comes back into class. He doesn’t have a pass with him, but it’s not like I didn’t know where he was, and besides, it’s passing period, so I figure the nurse or whoever just held onto him until passing period and sent him up to me. No big deal; I explain what we’re doing. A few minutes later we take a bathroom break (due to the continuing saga of Devious Licks, we’re still on annoyingly modified bathroom policies) and I, as usual, am having to monitor kids in three different places.

I walk into the boys’ bathroom to see Hosea– Hosea, this time– punch an entirely different kid than the one who he had issues with previously, in the face. Hosea has his back to me and the other kid sees me come into the bathroom and witness everything, so once again, magically, I have a kid not fighting back and just letting the adults handle bullshit acts of violence. Which I appreciate; the kid he’s punching was suspended last week for fighting, so this is a minor miracle.

(As an aside, my building is not nearly as violent as this post is making it sound. Today is absolutely an aberration. This situation in the cafeteria is the first time all year I’ve had to put my hands on a kid during a fight or a lead up to one.)

Hosea, of course, denies everything. There’s a whole other post with this kid that I don’t want to get into; needless to say he is 1) one of the most consistent and 2) one of the worst liars I have ever met. He has never done anything wrong in his entire life and he will literally deny anything. The pencil in his hand? Not his. The website on his computer, which is open in front of him? He didn’t go to that website. The water bottle in his hand that he’s taking a drink from? He doesn’t have a water bottle, and he’s not drinking. Frankly, I’m willing to bet that his getting punched in the face by the other kid earlier was completely deserved, as he also lies on the other kids with astonishing regularity(*) and they all hate him. I spend as much time defending them from him as I do him from them, and it’s fucking. exhausting.

Anyway, Hosea didn’t do anything, and he won’t go to the office because he didn’t do anything; he’s not even in the bathroom, much less punching kids in the face, and the rest of them are sort of just standing there because they know good and well I was right there and saw the whole fucking thing. I hand him over to his paraprofessional (he’s also special ed, because of course he is) and get everybody else back in class and within a degree or two of functioning.

Fifteen minutes later, his para brings him back into the classroom, which, no, he punched somebody in the fucking face, I told you that, he doesn’t get to come back in the room. I glance at the clock and there’s about ten minutes left in class. I spend a brief moment contemplating whether this bullshit is worth it– a quick glance at the kid he hit shows that the dude doesn’t appear to care that Hosea is back in the room– and then, suddenly, the principal is back in my room again.

“Have you seen Hosea?”

“Yeah, I did, he’s right there. Did you see the referral already?”

“What referral?”

I’m confused at this point, because there’s no point in the principal being in my room to collect this kid if he doesn’t know the kid did anything, at which point I find out that Hosea wasn’t supposed to leave the office in the first place. He tries to play the “I’m not going downstairs” move with the boss for all of two seconds and I’m pretty sure the boss leans over and tells him that his ass is going to be in the office in the next five minutes whether the rest of him is attached to it or not(**) and he makes the decision to go. And I give the fuck up on class for the rest of the fucking day, because Jesus, this is enough bullshit for one Friday.

(*) AN EXAMPLE: Hosea is also in my advisory, and the kids eat breakfast during advisory. In homeroom on this same Friday, moments after the bell rang, I walked in and was informed by Hosea that a group of other students threw an apple at his head. The other kids immediately begin vocally denying that this has happened. I am by the door, and glance in the trash can; no apple. There is one (1) apple in front of one of the students he’s accusing; it is in pristine shape, with not a mark on it, which is not something you would expect from an apple that had been thrown at someone’s head. Nor is there any sign that an apple– an object with a lot of water inside of it that tends to splat when thrown at a hard surface– has bounced off of 1) Hosea’s head; 2) the whiteboard behind him; 3) the wall below the whiteboard; 4) the floor. I ask Hosea where the apple they threw is. He doesn’t know. I look around. No apple. He’s lying through his fucking teeth, for no clear reason at all. This happens every single day, except for the part where because Hosea is such an asshole to the other kids all the time, sometimes he’s telling the truth, because they do actually both 1) pick on him unprovoked sometimes and 2) frequently respond to his provocations. For example, it’s not at all beneath him to see the kid’s apple sitting in front of him and claim that the apple was thrown at him so that the other kid would pick up the apple and throw it at him.

(**) Probably not his exact words.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

2 thoughts on “75 minutes on a Friday

  1. Wow, one middle school teacher to another, man there are days when it really doesn’t seem to be working or worth all the effort or energy. I generally don’t talk to my girlfriend “about my day” because it either was exhausting and uneventful, exhausting and she wouldn’t understand or exhausting and I’d rather not relive the day… I get from you the you love working with the kids and the subject is interesting, but there’s definitely a level of “wear and tear” that non-teacher have absolutely no concept of. And Fridays can be their own nightmare. Working with proto-humans is challenging, to say the least.

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