Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Death Threats and The Silver Bullet Train

At 6:30 a.m. the phone calls start. I listen to and decline a few job offers, floating in and out of consciousness, lying on my stomach, the phone pressed between me and the mattress. Vibrate. Vibrate. I think back to the day before... impossibly small humans... asking me if if they can put their heads in the trashcan... tugging on my knee, asking Mr. Alan, can we use your shoes as pillows?

7:00. Another call. Awake. Middle school Math. I can do that. I get up, completely relying on routine and muscle memory to get me through the mindless morning sequence. Wash. Eat. Dress. Pack. Drive. Bump Drake.

And so it begins...

I'm in the classroom.

The lesson plans are simple enough. Pass out a worksheet with some complex word problems on them, and do this for every class. One of the problems reads as such:

Two cubes and two screws weigh as much as one cube and ten nails. One cube weighs as much as one screw and one nail. How many nails weigh as much as one cube?

Oh my God. Talk about an obnoxious question. Now I have to listen to the sighs and complaints about it all day. I will have to continually threaten them by telling them that it will be collected and graded. By the way, the answer is 4.

But. Never despair. What I've learned as I trawl classroom after classroom in search of amusement is this: that the most priceless gems never have anything to do with the schoolwork. Today's no different. Here are the highlights:

One extremely "enthusiastic" boy feels the need to share all of his favorite jokes with me.

Him: Did you hear the joke about the speeding bullet train?

Me: No.

Him: Too bad. You missed it!

Me: Wow that's funny.

Him: What's the difference between Jimmy and an onion?

Me: I don't know.

Him: You don't cry when you chop Jimmy up.

He keeps on going. And going. Wow. But I get distracted by a little girl who is bragging to her neighbor that she can burp the ABC's. So cliche, I think. But then again, she is about 40 pounds so I have to see if it is true. I put her to the test. She then gets red in the face and says she can't do it all at once. I have called her bluff. I turn my back on her and start heading back to my desk. But then, from behind me, from deep down in her recesses, comes the eruption. A. B. C. D. I stay completely still so as not to distract her...all the way until X. Y. Z.

She did it! Yay!

Completely enthused with my first class, I think the day can't get much better. That is until a shaking young lad comes up to me and says someone is threatening to kill him. Mhmmm.... Unexpected!!! I stay calm and ask him: Who? How do you know?

He hands me a folded piece of paper. He tells me he found it in his locker.

I can't tell whether he is actually frightened by this or not. Either he is an excellent actor or he is petrified. Regardless, I tell him that there is nothing to worry about. That I will take care of it. That he is safe. Lolololol.

The rest of the day passes by calmly. A new kid comes and eats lunch in my classroom. We debate his homework, and whether 4 never-ending lines can have only 2 points of intersection.

After lunch, I give the class a challenge. The kid who answers the domino riddle first wins a prize. This is the riddle:

So far, no one in any of the classes had answered it correctly - a perfect opportunity for some excitement. And...?

And..? I have never seen students work so feverishly. And...? As always, the motivation of winning a prize drives someone to succeed. And...? Someone solves it! I hand the girl an ice cold Coca-Cola can just like in the commercials, and just like in the commercials it lights up her face.

I tell her to dispose of the can afterward, for I'm sure that it is against school policy to down soft drinks in class. She says NO. I'M KEEPING IT AS A MEMENTO. I say whatever.

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