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.

Welp

Ended my day by breaking up a fight today, in the closing minutes of the school day, when either of the two idiots involved could simply have gone home and not had to see the other kid until Thursday, but then I guess we don’t expect good decisions out of people who are still, after all, children. That said, I pointed out to one of them after breaking them up that it was the second time in the not-quite-two-years I’ve known her that I’ve had to put my hands on her to pull her off of somebody.

…and I just sort of greyed out for a few minutes, and found a recording on TikTok of a teacher trying to enforce a dress code over Z0om, and now I kind of just hate everybody and I’m going to go play video games. I may need a day away from idiots myself.

On silence

At some point during the school day yesterday, some young-dumb-full-of-cum dipshit (or, hell, maybe it was a girl, so just young and dumb) decided that it would be a good idea to scrawl an unspecified (as in I don’t know details, and frankly wouldn’t share them) “threat” against the building in one of the bathrooms. Whatever the threat was, it was apparently going to happen today. A letter went out to all the parents and, unsurprisingly, attendance was abysmal today.

Did I take it seriously? Not really. School shooters and teenage bombmakers (and, again, I have no idea what the details of the threat are) are wealthy white boys whose parents don’t secure their guns, and that’s not the demographics of my building. My wife asked why they didn’t simply switch to e-learning for the day, and the answer is frankly that if we were to do that we’d start seeing these things weekly, and that’s not a thing anyone is interested in. I remember when I was in high school a neighboring district that did quite nicely match the “we have school shootings” demographic went through a similar thing– their kids learned that bomb threats meant they got to go home, and they were averaging a couple a week for a while there.

At any rate, nothing happened. If they know who made the threat (and they probably have a good idea, as there are cameras near every bathroom entrance in the building) I haven’t heard about it yet, but nothing happened. No real surprise.

I have to say, I could get used to the idea that my classes are only nine or ten kids. One of my students commented to me on my second day back that he thought I must hate him, and when I asked him why he said that he was so squirrelly and talking all the time and had such a hard time focusing. And, like, first of all, no, I’m not even remotely close to “hate” for any of my current students and I think there’s only maybe three or four in my entire career that I’d apply that word to, and second of all: dude, yeah, you’re a handful, but there’s only one of you. The rest of the kids in that class are fine, and I can deal with one kid bouncing off the walls if he’s not one of half a dozen. That’s no problem at all.

(Truth be told, I genuinely like all of my kids this year, or at least the ones I know. That doesn’t happen terribly often, but I can manage a kid I just don’t click with just fine.)

At any rate, I didn’t get the impression that the kids today were especially scared or nervous, although I did send an email to the boss before school started suggesting that maybe they think about rescheduling the planned fire drill to next week sometime, a piece of advice that was followed. What I got was six class periods of silence. Maybe not the entire period, but definitely once they got settled down, each of my classes today had at least 10-15 minutes of complete and utter quiet. Which would make most teachers happy. Not me. I actually really don’t like quiet from kids that are working, although I need it during instruction. I prefer a low buzz, where I can keep half an ear open at all times and have an idea what everyone’s doing. It was too quiet today, spooky-quiet, and it’s interesting to think that this year might be the last time I have in my career where something like that happening again is likely.

And now, having dodged spoilers all day successfully, I’m off to watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. See y’all tomorrow.

On yard signs

I had to do some running around tonight– I had my final LASIK follow-up appointment, and stopped by my dad’s to mutilate him give him a haircut, and I have some thoughts. Now, these should not be taken especially seriously, and I want to emphasize that they are based on a snapshot of maybe 10-15 miles of driving on a small number of streets in the Democratic part of Indiana. Take this all with a substantial amount of salt.

Nonetheless!

  • In general, there are fewer yard signs out than I would normally expect this close to the election.
  • Most of the signs that are out are for local or statewide races. There are a lot of school board signs, and more than I’d expect for the coroner’s race.
  • There are a handful of yards on this drive that can be reliably counted upon to have a sign for everyone running in whatever political party the house belongs to. Interestingly, while the Democratic houses all have Biden signs, the Republican houses do not have signs for the other guy. Houses with signs for him tend to have only a sign for him.
  • If you have this in front of your house I’m going to assume you’re a crazy person:

I assume that the stake is because of vampires. Like, seriously, people, the man is an atheist and he hates you.

  • I only saw one yard with that sign but it’s uncomfortably close to my house.
  • There is no gubernatorial race. Not one sign for Holcomb, even in the “we have signs for everyone” yards, and none on their own, and not one sign for his opponent anywhere.
  • There are also a couple of houses that reliably have large signs for Jackie Walorski– like, the size that require 4×4 posts driven into the ground– and those houses do not have signs up for That Guy either.

Again, draw no conclusions from this and I make no predictions. I’m mostly writing this now so that I remember to compare it to what that same drive looks like on, say, the 30th.


Many moons ago, I had a kid in my class named, oh, let’s call him Lafayette, for the usual “it amuses me for reasons I won’t reveal” rationale. Lafayette transferred into my room in December, and on his first day took a seat as far away from everyone as he could get and didn’t make a sound. He got called down to the office after about an hour and didn’t come back. When I inquired about it later, I was told that he’d been expelled from his previous school for threatening to murder his teacher, and that we were honoring the suspension. He’d be back in January.

For the record, while he wasn’t a great student by any stretch of the imagination, I had no real discipline problems with Lafayette. He was, on his worst day, squarely in the middle of that group in terms of his behavior.

The year after I had him, a photo of him went Facebook viral, as his mother forced him to stand on a street corner for several hours carrying a sign announcing to everyone who drove by that he was failing all of his classes and was generally not a good person. I can’t find the picture now, but it still resurfaces every now and again.

Several years later, at 16, he was arrested for attacking an elderly woman, beating her unconscious, and stealing her car. He’s in state prison now; the soonest he has any chance of getting out is 2027. I assume he was tried as an adult.

His younger brother, who wasn’t ever in my class but who I met at least once, is currently the subject of a manhunt for murder. They haven’t caught him yet, but his face is all over the place.

An anecdote, apropos of nothing

Every so often, my wife will get into some sort of conflict with my son when I’m in another room. This isn’t something that happens a lot, mind you; once or twice a week, maybe, generally around bath- or bedtime. The details don’t really matter all that much. He’s either doing something she doesn’t want him to do, or he’s not doing something she wants him to do. Sometimes he manages both at the same time.

And my reaction, generally, is to let her handle it. Not because I don’t care, or because I think discipline is her job; we co-parent as much as we can, and on the rare occasion where we disagree on how to handle something involving him we sort it out when he isn’t around. Because here’s the thing: if my wife and son are having an issue, particularly if he’s already upset and not just being a butthead, the second I show up– even if I don’t say anything– I have escalated the situation, just by my presence. Now my son’s not scared of me, there’s no threat of physical violence here– I’ve never laid a finger on him. But if he’s already upset, the second he’s outnumbered he’s twice as upset as he was before.

I have made things worse, simply by showing up. It might be my intention to calm things down or, alternatively, to lay down the law and quell the misbehavior, but what I have done is escalated the situation.

Now let’s imagine that I walk into the room, and my belt is in my hand. I don’t say anything; I’m not screaming or yelling or carrying on. I’m just there, leather belt in hand, perhaps doubled over on itself.

That’s gonna be even worse, right? Even though I haven’t actually done anything. I’m just standing there, with my belt, and I’ve made things more frightening, more violent, more alienating, more dangerous. Just by standing there.

Funny how that works.


8:34 PM, Monday, June 1: 1,809,109 confirmed cases and 105,099 Americans dead.