Here is the third and final installment of the moments that make being a teacher so worthwhile. What? You’re looking for sap or inspiration or tear-inducing anecdotes? Those are for the movies. This shit is all real.
Super sweet girl came into my room during lunch one day holding a typed essay she was working on for another class. She said, “Mr. Bitters, can you please scam over this for me before I retype it?” The poor girl meant “scan,” but as I had taught this girl in 11th grade English, she wasn’t too good with words … or writing … or reading.
Instead of being a real teacher and using this moment to clarify the difference between “scam” and “scan,” I said, for the benefit of another old vet eating lunch in my room, “Sure thing, Nafeena! That’s my specialty! I’ve been scamming here for 24 years now!” The paper got scanned, the other teacher got one a good laugh, and this poor senior girl will some day tell her boss she needs a day off from work so that she can go get a CAT Scam.
I sent a kid to the restroom about ten minutes before the end of class. A new, very stern female vice principal stopped this kid, who had forgotten to take my hall pass. She began to interrogate him. Now, this kid has a pretty bad scar running down under his nose across his upper lip, so he looks like he could be “special.” He also has a rather deep voice and, due to the scar, a bit of a lisp. He’s also very smart and has balls of titanium. He recounted the following story to me, and the V.P. confirmed it later.
The VP stopped him in the hall and asked where he was going. He said, in a really slow, retarded voice: “I … don’ knowwww.” She bought it. She thought he was a short-busser, or, to use a more professional term, a window-licker.
She started questioning him very slowly. “Is your classroom upstairs or downstairs? When you go downstairs, do you go left or right? Is your teacher male or female?” To every question, he would pause, tilt his head, think real hard, and respond, “I don’ knowwww.”
She finally got him to give her his name. She looked up his schedule on her computer, saw he belonged to me, and called my room, overcome with self-satisfaction at saving the day for this boy. When I picked up the phone, she said, “Mr. Bitters, I just want you to know that I have Eduardo with me and he is okay. I’m going to hold him until the bell and then if you could send someone up with his books …” I paused for a long while, puzzled, then asked, “Is he in trouble?” She assured me in her most motherly voice, “Oh no, the poor kid was so lost and confused, but he’s okay now.” When I heard him tell the story for the entire class the next day, he became one of my heroes in the school.
And this year he became my number one school hero. He has a mustache. One day he brought in a disposable Bic razor, and when excused to the restroom he promptly shaved off the sides of each mustache to effect a spot-on Hitler ’stache. He then marched around the halls between classes yelling, “Have you SEEN KYLE?” Say it real fast and loud with a German accent. It sounds like, “Sieg heil!” Then he would yell, “I think I saw him over there!” And he’d point with his whole hand doing a Nazi salute. It was brilliant. This went on between two classes, but very few people even got the joke. Fortunately, we have no Jews in our school (hence our shitty SAT scores). However, we do have do-gooder teachers, one of whom reported him to the V.P., who made him shave off the rest of the mustache, taking him from Hitler back to another nobody with a just a few quick razor swipes. Fortunately, I did my part in showing him the type of reaction this sort of tasteless action can elicit. I took two picture of him doing the salute and still have them on my work computer.
Girl came to my class one day and immediately immersed herself in a book. Now, I can barely get them to read the results of their pregnancy or STD tests, so this was quite thrilling. I went over and commended her on doing independent reading. She looked up kind of embarrassed. I asked her what she was reading. She reluctantly showed me. It was called, Sex Chronicles: Gettin’ Buck Wild. I asked her if I could take a look. She let me have the book. I opened to a random page. I am not exaggerating one bit (remember, I take notes) when I saw that the first line I happened upon read, “… then he flipped her over and began ramming her from behind, slamming her into the headboard, pulling her hair …” Ass slapping and shouts of “Fuck me!” ensued. Then the paragraph ended. I handed it back. She said, “Mr. Bitters, you shouldn’t be readin’ that kind of stuff.” I wanted to say, “Well, sweetie, since you’ve already had two abortions in the past 18 months (people talk, namely her) maybe you shouldn’t either.” But for once I was a concerned educator. I told her I was proud of her for reading on her own and handed back her book. I found the book on Amazon, (it’s part of a series!) but it was too expensive to buy a class set.
We had a teacher get into an actual fight with a student one Thursday during eighth period. This guy is 50 and has had previous physical confrontations with students. They took him out that day and he has not been back. The next day the principal held a brief meeting after school. (I’m surprised the union didn’t grieve the fact that it was on a Friday.) He wanted us to know the facts about what had happened, to remind us not to talk to the press, and to remind us of how to avoid physical confrontations with students. I mean, the man emphasized that there is never an excuse for this. He said physical violence from staff is indefensible and one of the few legal issues you can’t overcome. We were sent off secure in knowing that we worked for a level-headed, mature principal who would lead by example. The meeting ended before 3:00.
That Friday night, a little after 9:00, when the basketball game ended, Mr. Example Setter got into a shoving match with the opposing team’s coach and had to be held back by our school cop. He was upset at the behavior of the coach’s players and told him to control his kids. The coach stepped up and called him a “bitch.” The principal gave him a good shove. A melee ensued. Fans rushed the floor. Adult fans, not kids. A swarm of cop cars soon descended upon the school. The security video shows one man running down from the stands with an infant in a car carrier. He was trying to protect his lovely child, his fatherly instincts kicking into high gear … yeah, right. No, wanted to kick some ass. He put the carriage, which contained an actual live baby, down on the floor and went off looking to punch and get punched. Strangely, no meeting was held Monday to remind us to refrain from violence.
A special ed kid I know only from the halls stopped to talk to me as I stood outside my classroom door between classes. He told me it was physically impossible to open one’s mouth very wide and nod one’s head at the same time. I, who apparently just hopped off the banana truck in the hope of buying some prime Florida swampland real estate, immediately took up his challenge, showing him that I could not only do it but do it with gusto. And there I was, pantomiming a rather serious blowjob in the middle of the crowded hall. Yep, 24 years on the job and still getting duped by special ed kids. (But to my credit, I think I’d give great head.)
On the last day of school, I heard this same kid ask a girl, “Hey, you wanna go to the cookout?” The girl, who I believe sat behind me in the back of the banana truck and later bid against me for that swampland, said, “Yeah … what cookout?” The Sped replied, “The one where I slap my meat against your grill.” Since it was the last day, I let that hilarious bit of sexual harassment pass. I was too busy laughing to fill out any forms anyway.
And finally, we were sitting in the annual meeting last fall in which the pupil personnel worker reminds us of the signs of physical and sexual abuse. She was going down the list, mentioning bruises and black eyes and compound fractures and severed heads, and near the end she mentioned “bloody underwear.” I was sitting next to a man who is somewhere between 65 and 127. The last witty comment this guy made was probably some crack about Eisenhower’s chances at getting re-elected. He leaned over to me and said, “If I turn in a kid because of bloody underwear, I’m going to be the first one arrested.” There I was, laughing in the middle of the presentation about the horrific abuse kids are subjected to.
And there you have it, the greatest hits from another year in one public high school. Yes, I get paid decent money to enjoy my job that much. Sometimes I laugh so hard my stomach hurts. Which is why I need this 61-day summer vacation to recuperate. Now get back to work, suckers!
Ned Bitters teaches high school and dreams of one day seeing one of his former students on stage at a strip club. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.