Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brick By Brick

But I wonder if we're building something or taking it apart.

Got some news tonight that some teacher people I know were out tonight talking to higher-ups about the situation in the schools. Grapevine has it that they were "off script." I mean that only in the good, truth-to-power type way. So that's good news. We'll see if the higher ups listen or do anything about it.

Got other reports from folks running the big exam this week. Some places are running like well oiled machines. Others not so much. We'll see where those pieces fall when the week is out.

Story time.

I was standing outside one day this week, watching some of the students do what they do. About fifteen of my minutes had been spent trying to convince several individuals to stop a mostly-harmless-while-intensely-bothersome behavior they were engaging in.

It involved several larger individuals heaving an oblong leather object through the air at both a high velocity and arc. This oblong leather object was landing somewhere near another small gathering of individuals, who would shout loudly, run and jump and reach up to catch this object, usually in an unsuccessful manner. Due to this lack of success, it was loudly and rather profanely explained to me, that the oblong leather object was landing near what appeared to be fragile glass squares situated precariously inside holes in the walls of the buildings. Every once in a while, this object or the associated larger individuals in pursuit said object, would happen across other individuals who did not expect the sudden appearance of either object or individual in their personal space.

Mostly harmless while intensely bothersome. I was attempting to convince several of the larger individuals to attempt to throw and catch the oblong leather object in a more direct, more successful and far less bothersome manner.

My petitions fell on deaf ears, and I was roundly ignored. So far extends the reach of my authority. My position had been reduced to a lookout, making sure no one exited the facility without permission or engaged in more directly harmful behaviors. The gathering of individuals did not seem interested in rasing the level of behavoir past 'intensely bothersome', but they showed no signs of ceasing such behavior of their own accord.

Impasse.

It was that part of almost every school week where, despite the adults having a good, workable plan, the gathered individuals had discovered a small loophole or unfolded corner of the veneer and were now gleefully exposing the rift. Elsewhere, the overall plan was still in action and because of this, I knew it would be several minutes before other haggard adults would realize that a weak link had been exposed and exploited. This is not a good piece of knowledge to realize in front of a group of gathered individuals. So long as I look like I know what I'm doing, they have no way to really know deep down that this isn't part of the plan as well. It is a delicate balance.

This is where having an excellent poker face can literally save human lives.

I guaged the situation quickly and realized that there were two other adults in the surrounding environs. They were engaged in that long honored waste of time I like to call "arguing with children." This, however, would leave the gathered individuals distracted by both the heaving of the oblong leather object and the incessant prattle of adults yammering about "respect."

Seeing them so distracted, I changed my location slightly, to better view the gathering and surroundings, waiting for some means of letting other adults know of the situation.

I hate Mondays.

Just as I was considering my options of distraction and mobilization, another haggard adult happened to be walking past. Adding this adult to my conversation would bring several advantages to my negotiating position. First, numbers, as the ratio of adults to gathered individuals now dropped to about 1 to 5. We have now reached acceptable levels. Second, my negotiating position gains respect because of the new adult's sheer size and prowess on the football field. The adult is massive compared to the gathered individuals, and his assistance emboldens me. The third addition this new adult brings to the table is credibility. His appearance on the scene seems a planned event, and my conversation with him appears "on script," at least to the gathered individuals watching me for signs of weakness.

His appraisal of the situation is the same as mine: mostly harmless while intensely bothersome. We begin a quick vernacular conversation covering all the salient points I have mentioned here.

In the course of this conversation, yet another haggard adult comes walking past. Both Large Adult and I are not pleased with this development. The appearance of this other adult does not help our negotiating position based on this other adult's generally bizzare appearance, highly pitched and complaining voice, and uncanny ability to agitate the gathered individuals with said loud and complaining voice. Said adult is not in a good mood.

This mood does not improve when the aforementioned oblong leather object lands near her personal space "by accident." I sense a loss of control on the way, and the situation will need to be repaired.

Luckily, new adult is content to use the loud and complaining voice against me. The gathered individuals love this and listen intently.

"Can't you do anything about them doing that???" Loud and complaining. Gestures.

What follows from the now fully agitated gathering of individuals is a loud and profane debate about what specific things I can and cannot do about them doing a wide variety of strange and hypothetical activities. But I hear some bigger words and proper grammar usage seeping into their vernacular. Education has taken place.

Ignoring both this and the loud and complaining adult who, having nearly boiled a mostly harmless while intensely bothersome situation into something more, walks away to complain loudly to someone else, I start thinking deeply about exactly what I could do to the gathered individuals, should I have cause. I discuss this with Large Adult.

I can not ask them to stop their behavior. They will ignore me.
I can not yell at them about their behavior. They will ignore me, become agitated, and start arguing with me about mind bogglingly unrelated topics.
I can not threaten to take away their recess time. They will ignore me because I cannot physically stop them from going to recess.
I can not physically stop them from doing something without having to hear about possible future litigation or having to hear about how they are bigger and faster than me.
I can not give them detention because I would have to drive them home.
I can not give them in-school suspension because that room is being used for higher and necessary purposes this week.
I can not give them out-of-school suspension because this is testing week and they are mandated by the state to be here in a seat.

I can make fun of them. The worst thing you can do to one of the gathered individuals is make their friends laugh at them. I have a quick wit and many adults think I am funny. To middle schoolers, I am f*****g hilarous.

I can bribe them with candy. Also effective. This is the reason I have the cleanest room in my building. By investing in breakfast pastries, I have subcontractors. This gives me an idea...

So, NO, Loud and Complaining, I literally cannot do anything to stop this mostly harmless but intensely bothersome behavior. But I can see salvation in a silver wrapper.

We've been outside for almost 25 minutes. Elsewhere, other haggard adults must be realizing how quiet it is right now. I can almost feel them on their way. At the same time, I notice that most of the gathered individuals have run out of candy and snacks. Soon, their fixation on junk food and sugar will begin to take over their thoughts, and there is absolutely no junk food or sugar available in our present location.

I see my chance.

I wait a few more minutes, just enough time for them to rummage through their belongings and finish off any crumbs or last vestigates of empty calories in their possession. They appear forlorn and lost, and have yet to realize why. This is the moment I wait for.

I holler, "Alright, time to go back to class!!" I watch their desire for more junk food mechanize their legs to move towards their classrooms. At this point in the day, the only way to get more junk food is to go to class and beg that room's haggard adult for a treat of some sort. The associations have been made. Without knowing why, the gathered individuals become a herd moving towards where they are supposed to be. Education has taken place.

Like clockwork, the haggard adults we have been waiting for appear around the corner to help manage the transition back to the plan adherence. I dap up Large Adult, he goes on his way, and I follow the herd back to my building, shooing stragglers along the way.


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2 comments:

liberalandproud said...

Next time I complain about my bunch of "college" students at CGCC, I'll remember this post and count my blessings.

em said...

oh, the middle school monsters. i lovehate them.