Teacher bloopers

Last day of the quarter today, and my seventh grade classes were working on story problems, because, well, they’re bad at them. I was talking to my second hour class and going over some of the more common errors first hour was making in an attempt to not explain the same exact things five thousand more times for the second class in a row. Unfortunately, some of the errors they were making were errors of volition and not of comprehension: to wit, the student who put dollar signs in front of every single answer when only two or three of the questions were involving money may have not been doing his very best on that assignment, and if you turn in a sheet of paper with 10 answers and not a single other pencil mark on it it is fairly likely that I’m going to suspect you may not have actually done the assignment.

So, yeah, I’m talking about all that. And in the process of having this conversation with the students, I point something out that is especially true today, when it’s the last day of the quarter and the assignment must be turned in on the day it is assigned: I would much rather have something turned in half-finished by someone who has clearly been working than a completed assignment from someone who, and I quote, “wrote down a bunch of random-ass nonsense for ten answers and turned it in.”

Wait.

What did I just say?

The class is blinking at me. Did I just–

Yeah, I did.

Uh.

Obviously the appropriate thing to do was to apologize and then watch as both I, my co-teacher, and the entire class collapse into laughter, because fuck it, it’s early in the morning on the last day of the quarter before a five-day break and, well, y’all, apparently Mr. Siler ain’t completely on his game today. So, yeah, I don’t usually swear, at least not accidentally, in front of my students, but apparently today my filter isn’t set quite as high as usual?

I shoulda had more caffeine during first hour, is the take-away here.

In which this may as well happen

Every class I have came at me today. I have had rougher days in my career, certainly– much rougher, in fact– but this was still a pretty goddamn rough day.

My 7th hour is my toughest class, by a longshot. They are also my last group of the day, which is not a bad thing for your worst group of the day to be. I had to start each of my 8th grade classes reading them the riot act about an epidemic of cheating and copying assignments that’s been going on lately, and went from that directly into the lesson for the day. Honestly, it was going well, not just “going well for 7th hour” but actually going well, until one of my kids randomly decided to lose his fucking mind because he thought somebody threw something at him. The big problem with this class is that they’re always on a razor’s edge and the slightest little thing can throw the room into complete chaos, and by the time I got the mind-loser out of the room (cussing and swearing the entire time) I literally had five or six of them on the fucking floor laughing.

So, more riot act. Amazingly, they more or less pulled together again, and even some of the floor-rollers came up for help on the assignment and actually paid attention while I was explaining what they needed to do and corrected a couple of misunderstandings. Like, I’ll take it, right? I had to toss somebody from damn near every other class I had today; if I get through my roughest group with only one kid out I’ll call it a win.

And then someone asked to go get some water. There’s a drinking fountain immediately outside my classroom so so long as I’m not actively instructing the answer to this question is almost always yes. I tell him he can go get some water and move on to the next thing, and the next thing I know there are five kids clustered around the door for some reason.

I investigate.

“The door’s locked.”

“The door doesn’t lock from the inside, guys. Quit screwing around, and everybody who doesn’t have permission for water go sit down.”

“No, really, the door won’t open.”

Uh.

So I go check. And I discover two things: one, no, the fucking door won’t open, and two, the kid who I sent out of the room and thought had gone directly to the office has instead gone outside of the classroom, sat down, and started quietly doing his assignment, like, when the hell did you calm down? And at first I think he’s sitting against the door or has a foot in front of it or something (there’s a window in the door, to be clear) but he sort of backs away and holds his hands up and he’s obviously not doing anything.

I call the office.

“You’re gonna love this,” I say. I hear a pained sigh from the other end. “I’m in my classroom, and–”

I get interrupted. “Let me guess,” the person on the other side says. “Your door is locked and you can’t get out.”

“I have many students in here with me,” I say, temporarily suppressing my urge to say how the fuck did you know that. “Please come rescue us.”

They dispatch a custodian. Who is unable to extricate us from the room. He starts popping the pins out on the hinges.

You can probably imagine what the kids were doing.

The bell rings. We are unable to go anywhere. The hinges are unpinned but we still can’t get the door open.

One of the kids suggests calling 911. All of them have goddamn cell phones. I squash this idea with a quickness.

It is ten minutes past the bell. There are now multiple adults outside trying to get the door open. Everyone in the room is now massively late to class and I am waiting for either a fight to break out or someone to decide that they need to pee.

(Honestly, it is shocking that “I need to pee and I am the center of the universe so my need to pee is the only thing anyone can discuss” is not part of this story.)

And then– after this has been going on for twenty minutes, and I have repeatedly vacillated between this is actually kind of hilarious if you think about it and bone-shaking anger, and while I am finding myself genuinely grateful that I decided to go on brain drugs when I did, there is a new ruckus. A ruckus happening at my desk.

As the door between my classroom and the science room next door, the door that I had utterly forgotten about because I put a cart with my printer on it in front of it and it is never used for any reason, the door that the janitor had also clearly forgotten about, the door that none of the 30-some-odd kids in the room has noticed, as that door opens up, shoving the cart and my printer out of the way, and the science teacher, with a giant shit-eating grin on his face, sticks his head into my room and says “Hey, guys, whatcha doing?”

And then there was a stampede, and I’m pretty sure no one died.

I have a stupid job.

The end.

On my other kid

Pictured: not my kid, my kid

I just dug through a month’s worth of posts from five years ago to determine that, probably because she was a minor at the time and isn’t actually my kid, I didn’t mention that a former student stayed in my house overnight before the last Washington D.C. trip I chaperoned way back in the day. Technically she probably shouldn’t have been on the trip, but she’d signed up before moving to Arizona and I literally had her mom assign me temporary legal custody of her and just didn’t tell anybody about it.

I took a picture of her sitting on my couch, and I remember posting it to Facebook with a caption something along the lines of “Why is this in my house?,” which entertained a number of her other teachers who I was friends with at the time.

She is 19 now, and is back in town again, and I picked her up at the airport last night, and she’ll probably be here tonight too before spending the rest of the week with other family and friends. And last night, as we were driving back from the airport, she got a text message from one of her friends directing us to visit her at her job at Arby’s. The friend is also a former student.

So were two other employees at that Arby’s, including another kid who had been on that same DC trip. All four of them were in the same class, which was hands-down the best group of kids I ever had. And I had them twice, first in 6th grade and then when they were 8th graders. So it happened that I, a grown man less than a month from his 43rd birthday, found myself in an Arby’s at 10:15 on a Friday night, after the lobby had closed, at least nominally hanging out with four nineteen-year-olds, three of whom were at least technically at work (and one the manager) and none of whom seemed to think it was remotely weird that 1) I was there in the first place or 2) I was the person who had been assigned the duty of picking this kid up at the airport, a job that one might think would have gone to, like, actual family, but we all have our priorities where they should be apparently.

And I spent about twenty minutes bouncing back and forth between this is at least a little creepy and hey, Hacienda is right across the street, do you guys want to go over there for a while after you get off work? Because age difference or not this really was a great group of kids and it turns out they have not gotten less interesting as they’ve aged into young adulthood.

And I’m just gonna leave that thought there, because I’m not sure I have anything else to add to it, but yeah: last night was kind of surreal.

(About the picture: the boy didn’t remember her from her last visit, which wasn’t surprising, but as soon as he discovered she was wearing Psyduck socks she became his favorite person ever.)

Three Christmas anecdotes

FIRST: I have been firmly on the Don’t Buy Me Anything train for Christmas for several years now, but this year my wife and I agreed to exchange one gift each. My wife won with this gift, which is an assortment of beard-grooming tools: a brush, which is gonna get used multiple times a day, beard-specific shampoo, which will get used as often as I need to use it, and beard balm and beard oil, which … well, we’ll see. This is actually just about the perfect Christmas gift, really– something that I would never have thought to buy for myself in a million years and would never have guessed that she’d gotten me in advance, but which I immediately realized upon receiving that it’s something I needed and am going to use all the time.

It is also a subtle dig at my hygiene, which a lesser person might choose to take as an insult but which I’m deciding I’m entertained by. 🙂

SECOND: My son received three different gifts that he already had. One was a set of Minecraft sheets, which both my wife and her sister bought him in a bit of a communications breakdown. Second was a Transformer. I’m kind of irritated about the Transformer; he got it because he brought it to me in the comic shop last week and announced that he wanted me to buy it. I reminded him that Christmas was in a couple of days and made him put it back, then immediately took it to the counter and asked them to hold onto it until I could come back without the boy and buy it. They did, and I did. The second he unwrapped it he announced he already had it and went and produced the original figure. Then he argued with me about whether he’d picked it out or not.

Like. Dude. Yes the fuck you did. That’s the only reason I bought the goddamn thing.

THIRD: Okay, maybe technically this is two-and-a-half anecdotes, but whatever. He also got one of these two tumbler cars from my mom and dad. He already had one of these, too, but he immediately decided he was excited about having two because now we can race them. So, OK. No problem there. The punchline: I’m pretty sure they alsobought him the original one.

My mom just called a few minutes ago. My dad was in their office looking for something. He found a third bright red Sharper Image tumbler car in the office while he was looking for whatever he was looking for.

Apparently Mom and Dad really want my kid to have this toy.

In which I save Christmas

We didn’t have marshmallows.

No one was quite sure how it was that we didn’t have marshmallows, but we didn’t have marshmallows. And you cannot make Heavenly Salad without fuckin’ marshmallows. The ingredients: Grapes. Pineapple. Juice from same. Heavy cream. Milk. Lemon juice. Sugar. And marshmallows.  They’re kinda important. And we didn’t have any.

At 8:4fuckin7 PM on Christmas Eve.

Turns out Walgreens is open on Christmas Eve. The 24-hour stores are still 24-hour, believe it or not. And there’s one close. We go back and forth a couple of times about 1) whether we actually need Heavenly Salad for Christmas dinner (yeah, we kinda do) and 2) whether Walgreens is likely to have marshmallows.

Walgreens.com allows me to search the inventory of individual stores and I discover that my Walgreens claims to have 10 packages of small marshmallows, but none of the traditional size. I have a vague memory of having tried this trick with the smaller marshmallows in the past and not being super happy with the results, but fuck it; I’d rather have undersized marshmallows than no Heavenly Salad.

I have to wait for a parking spot at Walgreens. Which is packed. Which I suppose isn’t terribly surprising. The employees, who know full and goddamn well that everyone there needs one thing and one thing only, are bouncing back and forth from customer to customer, basically pointing, barking “What do you need?” and leading them to that one thing. I overhear a conversation where one family is carefully explaining that they need macaroni, because their “side dish” is macaroni and cheese, and I realize with some horror that they mean Kraft macaroni and cheese, and I have a sudden flashback to this lady:

I don’t object to macaroni and cheese for Christmas, mind you– I thought about making it myself– but macaroni and cheese from scratch isn’t hard. It’s not even much more expensive! No one should be bringing freaking Kraft Dinner to Christmas. They actually have all the ingredients to make it from scratch! I can see them from where I’m standing!

I find my marshmallows. It turns out they actually do have one bag of the proper size, and technically I only need the one bag, but the bag appears to have been exposed to extreme heat if not an actual flamethrower at some point and I reject it in favor of two bags of the smaller ones. But hey! I have marshmallows! Victory!

I get in line to buy my marshmallows. The cashiers appear to be in genuinely good moods, and they’re having the exact same conversation with everyone, and everyone in line appears to be grateful and happy and not at all the assortment of miserable bastards that I was expecting. There are lots of thank-yous being tossed around.

I glance at the guy in front of me. He is carrying the following items:

  1. A single DiGiorno personal microwave pizza
  2. One (1) liter bottle of Mountain Dew

and nothing else.

I briefly consider asking him if he needs help, or if he needs an adult. Like, dude, do you want to come home with me? Because you are buying a microwave pizza and a Mountain Dew at 9:00 on Christmas Eve and if that is not a cry for help I cannot imagine what could possibly make it any worse.

And then, as if he can hear me, he gets out of line and wanders off somewhere. I do not follow him, because Jesus awkward, so instead I just buy my marshmallows and head home. I am very grateful to the people behind the counter and they are very nice to me.

And I have saved Christmas.