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.

May as well tell everyone

I came as close as I’ve come in my adult life to shitting myself in public today.

Yeah, buckle up, buttercup, it’s gonna be one of those kinds of posts.

Y’all have been here a while: what do you think is my least favorite thing about teaching? Is it paperwork? Lesson planning? Grading? Discipline? Dealing with students who don’t want to be there and don’t intend to allow anyone else to get an education but still manifestly refuse to stay the fuck home like they ought to?

Nah. It’s the fact that I can’t go take a shit when I need to.

Every so often someone will get pissy (no pun intended) with me about the idea that kids need permission from teachers to go to the bathroom. Without wading into that conversation too deeply, I write a lot of bathroom passes during the day, and basically my only rule about it is that it’s not happening if 1) I’m actively teaching, 2) You seem to be more interested in fucking around in the halls than taking a piss, or 3) I can’t actually think of a third reason but these things don’t work well in binaries. Even then, I’m likely to let you go anyway if you look like you really need to go.

But what about girls and their peeeeeeerioooooods, the nonsense-speakers shriek.

I can assure you that after eighteen years of teaching girls at or around the age of menarche I have encountered every period-related problem that it is possible for a male teacher to encounter and I’ve got the shit covered. Your kid still can’t get up and go to the bathroom whenever they want, because inevitably the exact same people who think their precious babies should be able to leave my room whenever the mood strikes them also would be excessively angry if they ever attempted to collect their child from school and the teacher’s response was “I have no idea where this kid is.”

Anyway.

The point is, as restrictive or liberal as any teacher might be about their personal bathroom policies, a simple fact remains: while at least in theory we can let a kid out to go use the bathroom whenever we want, unless we happen to have another adult in the room with us, which is much rarer than it should be, we can never go use the bathroom, because we can’t leave our students alone. And I’mma be blunt here: I don’t drink coffee in the morning any longer because coffee has certain specific effects on me that I don’t have time for in the morning, and if I don’t have an adult in the room with me during 5th and 6th hour, which are the two class periods after lunch, there is going to be a problem, because I can’t make it an hour and a Goddamn half after lunch without a bathroom break.

I normally have a paraprofessional in the room with me, but the science teacher was out today and he was covering her class. Her practice is generally to bring her whole class out for the last couple minutes of the period for– you guessed it– a bathroom break, and I was so close to a disaster that I walked out into the hallway and told him he was just going to have to find a way to watch that room (it’s next door) and mine for the next couple of minutes and bolted for the bathroom.

The boys’ bathroom is directly across the hall from my room. And I have proven today that I will not use the kids’ bathroom under any circumstances, because if I didn’t use it today, I’m never using it.

There are two adult bathrooms that I am legally able to use on my floor. Both have one toilet. If the one I’d gone to had been occupied, I’d have been fucked.

I will spare you the details. Let’s just say that the tolerances were milliseconds and centimeters, respectively, and that I didn’t have to clean anything up afterwards that I don’t normally have to clean up.

And that is my least favorite thing about teaching.

On cars and Hogwarts, again

If you’ve been around for a while, it’s possible that you remember this story: my son attends a pricey private school, one that my wife and I are affording with financial assistance. When we first started sending him there, I was driving a Ford Escape that had a six-figure mileage and was, itself, old enough to have a drivers’ license. My current Kia Soul is an upgrade. However, there was a day, several years ago, when I was picking my son up during the winter in the Escape and experiencing a bit of class anxiety. I comforted myself with the existence of what looked like a station wagon in the parking spot next to me that also was covered in salt and muddy snow and looked kind of shitty, only to discover that I was comparing my $2000 Escape to a fucking $100,000 Porsche.

He’s at summer camp right now, and I just went to pick him up, and I found myself in the car line behind a Tesla– I don’t know exactly which model, but not the one with the weird doors. One kid got in that car and they stayed in their spot, possibly waiting for another kid. My kid came out and got in my car, so I waited for the lane to be clear and pulled out to drive around the Tesla that had been parked in front of me.

Only to find myself behind another fucking Tesla.

My wife and I do just fine, I swear, and I see the effects of actual poverty every day at work, and again, no one in this building has ever been anything other than perfectly nice, but damn, there is just no faster way to make myself feel broke than to look around at the cars any time I’m near Hogwarts. It’s ridiculous.


I suspect we’re going to be back up over 100,000 new cases a day nationwide by the end of the week, (EDIT: Ha, it happened today!) and the CDC just announced that everybody should start masking up indoors again. I just ordered a new pack of filters for my favored mask. I was really hoping to not have to teach in a mask again this year, but apparently only about 20% of 12-15-year-olds are vaccinated nationwide and I’m sure that number is lower in my district, so I really don’t have any choice. Indiana’s numbers are going up, but they aren’t spiking to the degree the nation’s are yet and St. Joe County isn’t as hot as the rest of Indiana, so I’m pretty sure the school year will be starting as normal this year. That said, I don’t think I knew on July 27 last summer how this year would be starting yet, so who the hell knows? I suspect everyone will just close their eyes and pretend Covid has gone away, but we’ll see.

Oh come the hell on

Okay, damn it, I get it, logistics decisions that make sense on a nationwide level often don’t make sense on a specific, individual package level, and these large shipping companies have to make decisions that make sense on a nationwide level.

But I cannot help but notice that this package, which sat in a warehouse in California for five days after being received, was originally supposed to be here yesterday, then was rescheduled to today, and now has been rescheduled to tomorrow, appears to have been routed completely around where I live.

I assume that you will not look askance upon me if I reveal that I find this fact moderately frustrating. There is nothing especially important in the package; it’s not, like, insulin or something, and I’m not being harmed by having to wait an extra day or two for it. But if it’s in Chicago the day before it’s supposed to be in South Bend and you know that for some reason it has to go to Indianapolis and then to Detroit before coming to South Bend, which is in between Chicago and Detroit, maybe you update your scheduled arrival then? And then maybe don’t keep insisting it’ll arrive by 2:45 on that day right until the moment where that is temporally impossible?

In other Stupid But Annoying news, the last time I bought a new watch band for my Apple Watch at the beginning of the school year it got stuck while I was installing it, and I’ve never been able to remove it. The band is starting to look more than a little raggedy but I still can’t get the sumbitch off, and I am going through this spectacularly stupid mental calculus where I’m starting to seriously consider buying a new watch rather than continue to deal with this nonsense. I’ve had the old watch for over four years and I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it, but that sort of means that I’m buying a new, $500-800 watch depending on the options I choose because a thirty dollar band is stuck, and that also is on my last damn nerve.

(Why the hyperexpensive option? Because the stainless steel case and the sapphire glass screen are what are on this watch, and four years after buying the damn thing and wearing it 20 hours a day there is not a single mark anywhere on it. No scratches, no paint chips, no dents, no nothing. The stainless steel case with the sapphire glass screen are indestructible, and I don’t know how close the cheaper model comes to that ideal. I don’t like scratches on my watch.)

So, yeah. I’m having a Day. How are you?

(EDITED TO ADD: I just received a helpful text message from FedEx informing me– no, two helpful text messages from FedEx!– informing me that my package has been rescheduled to Thursday, 03/11. Which is … today.)

In which I am a dummy dumb-dumb dummyfacehead

You are looking at the interior of the cabinet under the sink in the master bathroom. Ignore the terrible wallpaper in the back; it’s not my fault, I didn’t put it there. There’s probably four more layers underneath it, too.

Several months ago– I don’t know how many; it could have been a year for all the fuck I know– Sushi climbed under there and somehow managed to collapse that shelf. It has been collapsed and lying at an angle for a very, very long time, and it has annoyed me every single fucking time I have looked at it during that time. Now, granted, this isn’t terribly often, as I don’t need to open the cabinet very frequently, but there’s some shit we’ve just been keeping on top of the vanity for all this time because the shelf was collapsed.

Why haven’t I fixed it? Laziness, and the fact that I am old and fat and absolutely loathe having to sit on the floor. But I have resolved for every single fucking weekend for months to get down there, figure out what was broken, replace it, and get that Goddamn shelf fixed. I figured I might have to find some pegs she knocked loose and put them back in place; the worst-case scenario was that one of them was actually broken and I’d have to make a quick run to the hardware store to buy a dowel or something. But I didn’t want to crawl around on the floor, didn’t want to dig around in that cabinet– it’s deep; I can’t reach the back of it without sticking my head inside– and I am, again, incredibly lazy.

I finally, tonight, managed to get my fat ass on the ground in front of it, OutKast playing on my phone, convinced that come hell and high water I was going to fix this fucking shelf.

Which involved picking it up and placing it on top of that dark brown support on the right there, which is screwed into the wall. The two pieces of perpendicular white wood are glued & screwed and aren’t coming apart.

It took ten seconds.

It took longer for me to stand up once I was done than it did to fix the fucking shelf.

No pegs. No bent nails or screws. Not even anything with any weight or requiring any real application of muscle power. I just picked the fucking thing up and put it back on the shelf. I mean, it might fall off again at some point, especially if a cat decides to wedge herself into that corner again. I could screw it in place, I suppose. But I’ve been putting this job off for months and it took ten seconds.

Fucksake.