We’re not all gonna die

positivity.jpgIt’s possible that those of you who have been around for a while have been surprised at how little I’ve been talking about my new job.  And the simple fact is I haven’t talked about it much because one of the things I’ve been trying really hard to work on with this job, for my own mental health, is leave work at work.

My new school has some issues.  Some fucking major issues.  I’m going to leave it at that for right now.

But.

I realized something at my last school, something I know I’ve said here before, but something I need to keep reminding myself of, over and over again, until it sinks the hell in.  When you don’t work in the classroom, and you don’t know any of the kids, there’s gonna be a good chunk of change where the only kids you interact with are the ones who are catching your attention, and the vast majority of the time the way those kids are going to catch your attention is with negative behaviors.  If 400 kids are in a hallway at one time and three of them yell “motherfucker” at the top of their lungs, my takeaway is going to be these fucking kids just swear in the hallways like it doesn’t even matter and the fact that 397 of those 400 kids weren’t cussing in the hall is going to go overlooked.

In a school with 800 kids, if 95% of the kids get through their day doing what they’re supposed to do and don’t get into any trouble, 5% of the kids is forty kids in the office, which in an eight-hour day is five kids an hour, or one kid in trouble every twelve minutes.  And those kids aren’t going to be evenly distributed– 2/3 of them will be after lunch, for example, and it’s really fucking easy to focus on those 40 and not the 760 who didn’t get into any trouble that day.  And that skews your perspective, right?

I know I’ve said it before.  I need to keep saying it to keep my shit together.

Lemme tell a story.

We have both a teacher shortage and an overcrowding issue.  There are some classes in our building that are massively too big as a result, and even just a couple of teacher absences can cause a cascade situation where we’re constantly having to find teachers to cover classrooms, because getting subs is basically impossible.  And we have a couple of classes that more or less haven’t actually had a real teacher yet this year because of that.

I got back from lunch at 12:45.  About five minutes after I walked back into the building I got a buzz on my radio from my boss.  She needed me to cover a class for a period.  Now, I’m literally the last resort for this a lot of the time for various reasons related to my actual job.  They don’t want me doing classroom coverage, so if they’re calling me in it’s because every other available adult has already been pressed into service.

She tells me I’m covering one of those overcrowded classrooms which has never had a real teacher.  It’s basically a study hall at this point because there’s nobody to write daily curriculum for the class, and most of the kids in there at this point have learned that whoever is trying to make them work today isn’t going to be there tomorrow and so it’s, to put it delicately, challenging to motivate them to do anything.  And I admit it, I groaned and rolled my eyes, because I didn’t really want to, but fuck it I’m gonna pitch in.  And then she says to me “It’s 12:30 to 1:11 and then take them to lunch.”

I look at my watch.  It’s 12:50.  

“You mean this class started twenty minutes ago?”

She looks at her watch, and without saying another word turns on her heel and fucking sprints out of the office.

Oh.

I follow her.  She heads to the classroom at a high rate of speed.

Where 30-some-odd eighth graders were sitting in their seats, quietly having a study hall, and making so little noise that for twenty fucking minutes, no one had noticed that there was no adult in the room with them.  

Now: this is on the grown-ups.  Somebody fucked up somewhere.  And the kids got reminded, somewhat vigorously, that maybe somebody should take the initiative to go to the damn office and let us know if no one is in the room.  But it’s kind of hard to get mad at a group of kids who are sitting and quietly, if not working, at least goofing off in a non-obnoxious manner– and a couple of those kids who had pencils in their hand and were clearly doing homework were not kids I would have expected to make those decisions on their own, so there was absolutely a bit of positive peer pressure going on there.

And I sat in that damn room until lunchtime and not for one second did I have to ask a kid in the room to do a single damn thing.  My presence in the room made no difference whatsoever to anything anybody was doing.  It didn’t have to.

And I’ll tell you what: a minute before they were supposed to go to lunch, I did something  I’ve not done very many times in my career: I flashed the lights in the room a couple of times (still hot as fuck, so the lights were out) and got everyone’s attention– to the point where they were closing their computers and turning volume off, which blew my mind– and I thanked them.  I basically said exactly what was in this post, only I said it in a minute instead of a thousand words.  I thanked them for being part of that chunk of kids who quietly did the right thing instead of god only fucking knows what chaos they might have been getting up to in there.  And I gotta say: my outlook on my fucking job got improved today in a lot of ways.

I’mma bring the little bastards doughnuts on Monday,  I think.

RAGEQUIT! Or: I Went to Target

targetI had a moderately– but only moderately– stressful day at work today, which made me think when I got home that a nice way to relax might be to spend some time playing the vidya gaemz.  And did I play Spider-Man, with its soothing and fun web-slinging action?  No.  I played Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, which is a fucking bastard of a game.

I played Dark Souls II to relax.

Those of you who have played this game are laughing at me right now, and you are right to do so.

So here’s the deal with the Dark Souls series: first, it’s balls-hard even just in the basic gameplay.  It doesn’t matter how big, rough and tough your character is; lose focus and even the lowliest scrub enemy is going to be able to kill you in a few hits.  On top of that, you gain experience by killing bad guys like you do in a lot of games, but you actually spend that experience like currency to gain levels, and you can’t do that just anywhere; each game in the series has one place where you can gain those levels.  And if you get killed, you drop all your experience points in the place where you died.  Want those thousands of XP representing a few possible levels back?  You gotta get back to where you just got killed without getting killed again and pick ’em back up, then escape to get where you can actually use them. Die again along the way? Too bad so sad, them shits are gone.

And DSII: SotFS is a special edition, one where they added a bunch of enemies, because apparently vanilla Dark Souls isn’t fucking hard enough.

Long story short; I got killed like three thousand times in a row, in a very enemy-heavy area, where none of the enemies are very tough but if you quit paying attention even for a couple seconds you’re dead, and the last time I left like four levels’ worth of XP on the table when some fucker I’d missed and walked right past stabbed me in the back, maybe three feet from my damn green blob of love.

And I did something I haven’t done in something like 35 years of gaming:  I broke my fucking controller.  I spiked the thing like a goddamn football and then watched as the PS4 helpfully told me that it had lost contact with the controller.

Fuuuuck.

Fifteen minutes to dinner.  Well, I can’t turn the damn game off without a controller, and the boy’s gonna want to play Spider-Man later, so… Target is pretty close.  I can totally go to Target and get a new controller in fifteen minutes.

Off to Target.  I’m on a mission and I know exactly where I’m going, so I don’t pay too much attention to the young lady who smiles at me and says hello as I’m walking past her, and I say hello back but I’m probably fifteen feet past her before I realize that I’m pretty sure she’s a former student, one who I haven’t seen since sixth grade (she moved) and who just graduated high school.  But I don’t realize it until I’m well past the point where I can turn back around and say hi, plus I legitimately haven’t seen the kid in six years and I’m not 100% sure.

I find the video game section.  I find PS4 controllers.  They’re locked up.  And someone else smiles at me and asks me where the Xbox controllers are.

And I realize I’m in Target in a red shirt.  Sigh.

I know the answer, so fuck it, I answer her question.

A moment later, someone in a blue shirt asks me if I need any help, and I have a brief split-second of pure confusion– because I don’t work here, and someone just asked me for help, and you clearly don’t work here, so why are you asking me if you can help me?

And then I see the Target Security logo on his blue shirt.  Oh, OK.  Fine.  Gimme this controller.

He goes and gets a guy.  The guy is maybe 25.  And by this point I’m sort of laughing at myself, so I tell the guy that I’ve been a gamer for something like 35 years and I just rage-smashed my first controller.

He laughs, and– I swear to God, and these games are old enough that it makes no sense that he said this– says “Dark Souls or Bloodborne?”

“Dark Souls II.  The No-Man’s Wharf.”

And he knows exactly what I’m talking about, and we commiserate for a minute or two, and he offers me a protection plan on the new controller, which I decline and I probably should have bought.

And then I see a second former student, also looking for video game paraphernalia, although this one doesn’t immediately recognize me.   And he’s got a bunch of friends with him so I don’t bother saying hi.

And then I leave.  Or at least try to.

And then I see a third former student, this one also an employee, and we talk for a moment.  And then I see the first former student again, and yes, it’s her, and she laughs and tells me she’d just sent a text message to someone else from her class who she knows I’m still in touch with to ask her to ask me if I’d just been to Target.

I, of course, had been thinking that I’d text that exact same person to see if the first girl worked at Target, so this plan makes perfect sense.

And then I went home, ate dinner, resolved to go directly to the boss of the stage without bothering to go get my souls along the way, because fuck them, died while doing that by falling off a Goddamned bridge, then finally made it to the boss and not only beat that bastard on the first try but I didn’t even get hit.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t break controllers, and if you do you shouldn’t leave your house afterwards.

The end.

In which my day is foretold by prophecy

rs-242887-prophets I walked into the building this morning, dropped my bag off in my office, ate whatever sausage thing I had brought for breakfast, picked up my coffee, and headed down to the gym/cafeteria area to monitor the kids before the first bell rang.  In the gym, I saw our security guard, a guy I know from one of my previous buildings.  We chatted for a moment.

“I’m about to say something I’ve never said in a school before,” I said to him.  “As of right now, I don’t really have anything to do today.”

He knows me, so he laughed.

“Someone will come in and drop something in my lap in the next five minutes,” I predicted.  “This isn’t gonna last long.”

It took, in fact, less than one minute before the principal summoned me to the office, and then we were off to the races for the rest of the day.  Yesterday was calm and sedate.  Today was not.  It was productive, don’t get me wrong, but holy shit I did not stop moving once all day long.

(Checks, discovers he walked four miles at work today)

(Is surprised it’s that low)


So it’s the end of the day and we’re shoving the very last of the stragglers out the door and to their buses.  I am closing the doors behind them so that they can’t decide they have something Very Important That They Need Right Now and dash back into the building.  Someone tugs on my sleeve.  I turn and see someone who is much too young to be at my building looking up at me.  She is, maybe, in third grade, and I’m guessing probably second.

“Do you have a student named Aaron at your school?” she says.

oh god what did I do to deserve this

“We probably have a lot of Aarons at this school, sweetie,” I say.  “What is his last name?”

“She’s a girl,” she says.  I wait.  She does not elaborate.

“Do you know Erin’s last name?”

She thinks carefully and says a last name.  I repeat it.  She thinks about it some more and says that that’s not the right name.

“What’s your name?”

She answers me.  I ask if Erin has the same last name as her and she says no, but she can’t remember Erin’s last name.

“Who brought you here, sweetie?”

“My te-te.”

“Okay.  Can she come into the building and then we can go to the office and look for Erin?”

“She can’t come in.”   Note that this response comes immediately.  She doesn’t have to think about it at all.  It’s at this point where I realize I don’t have a radio and can’t buzz the office about this conversation.

“Why can’t she come in?”

“She’s not wearing any pants.”

I blink, slowly, a couple of times.  I notice that there’s a teacher standing behind me, just inside the building, and that that teacher is listening to the entire conversation I’m having and is laughing her ass off at me.

“Did you just say that she wasn’t wearing any pants?”

“Yeah, she just drove me here but she can’t come in ‘cuz she’s not wearing pants.”

I am not going to ask you can’t make me ask nope no way I am not asking

“Okay.  Let’s try one more time, real hard, to remember Erin’s last name.  I can have the office call for her to come out this door.  She’s supposed to be out by now anyway, so she’ll probably come out soon anyway.”

She thinks and gives me a name.

“Are you sure?”

She nods vigorously.

“Okay.  I’m gonna go to the office and tell them to call for Erin to come out, okay?  Where’s your te-te’s car?”

She points.  I don’t see a car. Auntie apparently didn’t figure out not to pull up by where the buses were.  At that moment I hear an all-call behind me for the name that this little girl has given me, so apparently Auntie got tired of waiting and just called the school.  I point out that they just called for Erin and the little girl runs away.

All right then.

Glad I could help.
giphy.gif

New short story at Patreon!

There’s a new downloadable short story, The Forgotten One’s Prayer, over at my Patreon! Those of you who are already Patrons should click here, and those of you who are not Patrons should also click here and become one!  Access to an ever-growing group of new stories, for as little as $1 a month!

In which we’re official-official

thumbsupI am pleased to announce that I made it through yesterday without bloodshed or threat of jail.  The day wasn’t entirely without aggravation, as the muckety-mucks didn’t show up until about three hours after we were expecting them, leading to lots of sitting around and occasionally bellyaching about how Jesus, I just cannot clean anything else, enough of this nonsense.  When they finally did arrive, though, it was with basically nothing but praise for how the store looked, and my regional manager actually pulled me aside and said that he knew good and damn well just how much of the look of the place was due to my efforts.  It is entirely possible that this was just a little of him knowing I was pissed and blowing a bit of smoke up my ass, but dammit by that point I deserved some ass-smoke and I’m glad he took the time to do it.  There was one genuinely entertaining moment (at least for me) when two people who were with the group but hadn’t shown up with them at first got to the store, and what with everything else going on I didn’t notice them right away, and by the time I did notice them the national sales director was on his way over to them and saying hello.

Greeting guests right away is kind of a big deal in this business, as you can imagine, so that caused a bit of a heart attack.  I mean, yeah, I’ve got a foot out the door and all that, and this ultimately isn’t a big deal, but I still really don’t like looking like an asshole, and one of these guys deciding he needs to greet a guest for us is still kinda not good.

Anyway, long story short, I realized that they weren’t guests at the same time that they realized I thought they were guests, and at the very same time they realized what I must be thinking, and everybody had a big slightly embarrassed laugh about it.  And eventually I went the hell home where I belonged.

You’re probably thinking right now that the headline on the post doesn’t make a ton of sense.  True.  The other thing that happened yesterday is that I got a notification from NewJob that I have finally been approved by everyone who needs to approve me– and some of these folks must have been on vacation for the last few weeks– and I am real and I have a salary and everything, and while the number next to the salary isn’t surprising, it is definitely very pleasant.

Actually, that’s not quite true– I’m surprised that it’s the right number, if we’re being honest.  I was fully expecting to have to fight with somebody or at least send a pointed email to get someone to put my salary back to wherever it was when I left last time.  And I didn’t!  So contracts are signed and everything.  I think, ridiculously, the school board still has to sign off on me, but that’s a formality.  It’s “Hey, here’s this list, we cool?” and  they don’t read the list and go “Yeah, we cool,” and it’s done.

So.  This is happening.

Ten shifts left, guys.  I’m gonna play Bloodborne and finish a short story today and tomorrow, I think.  Let’s do this.