Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

...Way Worse Inferno, Part II

So I actually survived the classes all the way until the afternoon—5th hour, with my plan period coming up 6th hour, meaning a blessed break for one whole class period with no kids.

And then the lights went off.

At first, the kids freaked. You would’ve thought they were being thrust into total darkness instead of the pleasant daylight of a hot, sunny day. Some kids thought we were under attack. And when you think about it, lack of electricity really is a reason to panic for these kids. Everything they know and love is operated with it.

Plus a lot of that is exactly what makes eighth grade so awful. It’s the age where the cluelessness of childhood mixes with the instability of hormones. The resultant mixture is so volatile, it’s a veritable Twilight Zone of tween-dom where spontaneous emotional combustion is commonplace.

I managed to get them calmed down in much the way the Dog Whisperer does—by distraction. But those battery operated clocks confirmed it: the bells didn’t work. I waited with Pavlovian pleading in my head. Bells! Where were my bells?!

Then a walkie-talkie carrying vice principal came around to deliver the sentence: Do not release classes until the electricity comes back on!

I watched in agony as my whole break ticked away. The room grew more stifling with the air conditioning off. I opened the windows; the kids threw things out. They hollered to their friends who were lucky enough to be outside for P.E. They were loud. The noise throbbed. My feet throbbed. My head throbbed. The heat throbbed.

They began to complain. They wanted something different to do. They wanted to go to the bathroom...all at the same time, because they were afraid the bathrooms would be dark and scary. They wanted funner friends and better games (yes, I played games with them; I was desperate).

A couple of the most tiresome girls sat near the door and whined. At me. I’ve heard some children with their parents, and it’s clear where they get it. “Let us ouuuut! We’re so hot!” Like I was personally keeping them in there on purpose because the whole thing was just so danged much fun for me. Like I was torturing them by making them play games with their friends. All that went through my sweat-soaked head was that these little girls had no freaking idea what torture was.

Hell is hot, yes. But here’s what they don’t tell you: it is also filled with eighth graders.

At that moment, as a middle aged woman at the opposite end of the hormonal spectrum and trapped in the stifling heat with 25 restless adolescents, I was possibly far more dangerous than any little old cyber-threat.

If I admit that here, is that considered another cyber-threat?

The lights came back on…just in time for 7th hour, the last hour of the day. No break, but I survived. Some people climb Mount Everest as tests of their mettle. Mine was a descent of sorts, and much hotter, but no less an achievement of a lifetime.

Let the summer vacation begin.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do want society. ~Henry David Thoreau

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dante's Way Worse Inferno, Part I

Anybody who teaches can tell you that the last few weeks of school are h-e-double pencils for teachers. For substitute teachers, those last weeks are worse still. Make it eighth grade—that pubescent purgatory, the most dreaded of all ages experienced by humanity—and you have a recipe for sheer teaching torture.

Last week I descended into such madness. It was at my favorite middle school, even, but I realized something was up when I saw extra security guards posted at the entrances. Apparently there had been a “cyber-threat.”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with public school terminology, “cyber-threat” usually means somebody started a rumor on Facebook about how somebody else threatened to blow the dumb school to kingdom come…and parental panic ensued.

In MY day (yes, I know) when somebody threatened to blow up school, we all got a fire drill while somebody—my guess would be the custodian—looked around to see if there was a giant package marked “bomb” sitting around anywhere. We got to go out just long enough to see how nice it was outside (and to give the teachers and some of the naughtier kids--and maybe the cutstodian himself--an extra cig break), and then we had to go back in again. But in MY day, no one had yet freaked out in a school and committed mass murder.

So these days, after the police and fire department and bomb sniffing dogs and school board and administrators have all gone in and checked things out, we go in with extra security.

I actually worked extra security once. I was basically a not-so-glorified hall monitor who also had to patrol all the girls’ bathrooms to check for threatening graffiti. No kidding. But this time, they had hired real security guards with uniforms and everything. They were old guys who looked like they’d retired from meter reading, but the uniforms were a nice touch.

(To Be Continued)....

“I like saw your phone? And I was like, ‘that’s a really small phone.’” ~Overheard from 12 year old girl

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Here's my own quote:

I am not a writer, I'm a compulsive note-taker of life.

Unfortunately, have had too much life and not enough time for the notes. Hope that changes soon!