My Beloved Pupils
Part I of my substitute saga was merely an appetizer. It’s time for the feast.
I could write a book about things that happened during my long-term subbing experience. Some things would make you laugh until you cry. Some would shatter your entire innocent perception of today’s American pre-teens.
I could tell you about the soap operas that are their relationships. This one cheated on that one because he took a picture with her at a football game. That one’s dumping him for an eighth grader. Those two used to be inseparable, and now it’s awkward between them, but they have to sit together according to the seating chart. As sand flows through the hourglass, so are the days of their preadolescent lives.
I could tell you about their neediness and their complete disregard for anything happening around them. Some of them surprisingly cannot follow basic instructions such as “sit down,” or “put your name on the paper,” or “don’t lick the floor.”
I could tell you about how incredibly awkward they are—especially when hormonal feelings are involved. Once, a boy came up to me and asked if I could move his seat next to a girl he liked. Against my better judgement, I threw him a bone the next time I changed the seating chart. Call me a hopeless romantic. The girl he admired approached me the day after the switch and said, “Can you move me? The guy next to me won’t stop farting.” So much for romance.
But instead of telling you all this, I thought I’d share a few random instances from my experience that really stand out in my mind.
One of them involves the dry erase board; kids are infatuated with writing on it. Their messages will usually be something simple, like “have a nice day” or “So and So was here,” but sometimes they write something to me. One day, I gave a girl a disciplinary form and sent her to the office for using some absolute trash language. She told me she hated me and she hated the school and some other things that I’ll not repeat. She audibly stomped out the door. A week later, she wrote on the board “You’re my favorite, Mr. K!” I saw it, turned around, and told her that love and hate are two horns on the same goat. I think she’s still confused about what I meant.
One day, I mentioned to a class something about Instagram and they were utterly SHOCKED because I had an Instagram account. Apparently those are only for young people (they think I’m old, by the way—see tomorrow’s post). They all tried to stalk my social media after that. They had no idea I could have so many friends in my photos and they were even more “shook” that I had so many followers. What they couldn’t figure out was who I was dating, but you can rest assured that they dissected every photo that featured me within 10 feet of a girl. I quickly went into private account mode, and I am only now lifting the curtain for them to see my stuff.
There was one student who was famous for leaving class every single day. It was always something. One day, as soon as she walked in the door, I asked her, “Do you have to use the restroom?”
“No,” she replied.
“Are you feeling OK? Have to visit the nurse?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Do you need to check out a library book?”
“How about get a drink of water for that dry throat you’ve been having?”
“Good,” I said. “Then you have absolutely no excuse to leave this classroom today.” That was literally the only day she did not try to leave.
There is a legitimate problem with things flying across the room. Paper airplanes, for example. Yes, that’s actually a thing. I thought kids only threw paper airplanes in stereotypical classroom scenes of movies. No. It’s a thing. But also, there’s paper balls. They like to throw them into the trashcan from across the room and then scream one of various sport exclamations. One day, a kid had tried six times to make his paper ball go into the trashcan. Despite his efforts and my repetition in telling him to stop, the paper would not go into the can.
After telling him to stop a final time, he said, “I don’t think Mr. K is a baller,” to which I replied, “I’m pretty sure a real baller could actually make a paper ball go into a trashcan.” There were no papers flying across the room after that.
And now, for the dessert. A particular Friday was a school-wide health and nutrition day. Every teacher did not teach his/her core content for the entire day, but instead, taught different lessons about healthy eating. I taught a lesson involving different types of apples. Red. Green. Yellow. You get the picture. After slicing apples all day, I came to the last class period, and there were a TON of apples left. I was told that I could give kids as many extra slices as they wanted. So, I did the activity and started slicing the many leftovers. The kids devoured them. I could not slice the apples quick enough. They loved them. I even felt proud of them for chowing down on something so nutritious.
At the end of the class period, a student asked to go to the restroom. They’re not really supposed to go during class time unless it’s an emergency. He assured me that it was, and he came back after a few minutes. Then, suddenly a wave of them wanted to go to the restroom—all saying they were having emergencies.
I finally talked with one of them. “OK,” I said, “you can’t all be having emergencies.”
“It was. It was a bad emergency,” he said. And then it dawned on me.
“How many apple slices did you eat?” I asked.
He looked up and said, “I think about 14.”
Leave it to me to give a flock of 12-year-olds diarrhea. I legitimately felt bad, but somewhere deep, deep down inside of me, I might have felt a little satisfied. Is that terrible?