Saturday, April 02, 2005

Just Acting Like A Fighter

This story begins last summer. Frantic phone call. "Help, Leonard* did not pass his TAKS math test this spring and if he doesn't pass it this summer he'll be put in a remedial math class this fall and he may not be able to graduate next year! Could you please tutor him? Whatever it takes, just please, please, please help him pass."

The fact that Leonard is among the brightest, most well rounded kids in school makes this look like an easy $100 for about four hours of work.

"Well, I'm pretty busy with being retired and all, but since it's Leonard, have him come over and I'll see what I can do. I can't promise anything, but I'll see." Always leave yourself an out just in case the kid is a nut case. Turns out the kid is very sharp, and loves acting. You could see his eyes light up when I suggested he "act out" the word problems in his mind. This seems to make sense to him, and I collect my $100.

Long story short, Leonard knocks the top out of the TAKS math test last summer. Even better, he is the neatest kid you'd ever want to meet. Must have just been goofing the first time out with that test. Mom is ecstatic. "Oh, your wonderful, blah, blah, blah."

So last week we go to see the high school's one act play because Leonard and his parents have become big friends and we want to see him act. He is great. So good that he wins the Best Actor award at the first round of competition. Thursday night we go see the second round and he is great again. The play advances to the next round and Leonard again is chosen best actor.

Now you need to know the play is a comedy about a traveling band of not-very-good actors in the 15th century and Leonard plays the leader of the troupe. They are usually one step ahead of the law because they don't pay their bills and there are loves and rivalries among the members, thus the comedic tension. At one crucial point, Leonard's character unwillingly gets into a sword fight with some of the king's guards. Of course this character is a big chicken and is only "playing" the part of a swordsman when he actually kills one of the guards. At first he doesn't believe it and says, "He can't be dead. We are only actors." I'm thinking, "That's exactly how Leonard did so well on the TAKS math test. He was acting like a great math student!"

This is all background for the real story.

Yesterday, I'm substituting at the high school. At lunch we are told very quietly in the teacher's lounge that the office has received a bomb threat and that we will be evacuating to the area under the bleachers at the football field across the street. "Don't let anybody out of your classroom until we come get you," says the assistant principal's secretary. Great. I have met my class already and they have a split class period with lunch in the middle. I'm in a class of malcontents who I don't really know or want to know, and I'm expected to control them in a crowd of 1400 other people. When I get back to class after lunch, one of the biggest jerks wants to go to the bathroom. I tell him "no" nicely a couple of times and finally I take him out into the hall where I have seen the principals and tell him, "I am NOT going to let you go to the restroom because the principals have told me not to let anyone out of the room. Now if you want me to get one of them down here to explain this to you, I will, but I don't think you want to be messing with them right now. Do you understand?"

"There's going to be a fight, ain't there?", he replies. "There will be if you don't go sit your butt down in that room right now!", I command.

"What's going on?", another brilliant student asks when he looks out the window and sees a solid line of students and teachers marching across the street to the stadium. "You'll find out soon," I promise.

The assistant principal enters the room about then and tells them to take only personal items and leave everything else such as books and backpacks in the room, and "stay with your teacher."

Yeah, right.

So I find about three of the kids whose names I don't know when I get to stadium. I congratulate them on following the rules and settle back for a long, cold afternoon. My left over lunch stuff and some tests I've been working on for other kids I'm tutoring are back in the building. All I've got are my clothes and a notebook with the names of the students who are in Mr. Chastain's classes. I am congratulating myself on at least wearing a long sleeved shirt (Texas Tech logo) so perhaps I won't freeze to death.

Suddenly, behind me someone yells, "FIGHT!"

I turn around and here are two big kids going at it. What to do? Act like a responsible teacher and break it up, of course. I calmly find a nook behind a steel post to deposit my notebook of names, and reach into the crowd to try to grab one of the contestants. Just about the time I get a hand on one of them, somebody piles into the fight, throwing me off balance and I stumble backwards into a chainlink fence and then to the concrete. I get up and now the kids have separated the first two combatants and are rushing them in opposite directions to try to keep them separated. Some other teachers are now on the scene, along with local law officers who were there due to the bomb threat. The kid who wanted to go to the bathroom so badly is chasing one of the fighters because his friend was the other kid in the fight. So I grab his shirt and try to hold him back as he is yelling obscenities and stalking his enemy.

Fortunately, a rather large law enforcement officer of some type grabbed his arm and ordered him to stop and apparently the badge had some influence on the kid as he finally stopped yelling. I went back to look for my notebook.

Someone decided that maybe the kids should be made to sit in the stands rather than mill around in the confined area under the stands. Wish they had thought of that about 5 minutes earlier.

Examining the reddish stuff on my Texas Tech shirt, I thought, "This must be ketchup some kid had out eating when the fight started." Then I noticed there is BLOOD on my hand. I'm thinking, "Crap, I hope whoever bled on me doesn't have AIDS."

The rest of the afternoon I go around showing off the blood on my hand and my shirt and telling how I don't get paid enough for this kind of stuff. Ha, ha. Very funny. I find Leonard and tell him how much I enjoyed the one act play and especially his performance.

When I finally get home, I retell the story and decide to wash the blood off my hand, which I have left there for dramatic effect. When the water washes away the blood, there is a definite stinging feeling.

Hey! This is MY blood. It cannot be.

I was only ACTING like a responsible teacher.

*Names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty. Pee Boy was last seen being taken in handcuffs to a policecar. No bomb has been found.


Blogger Garden Obsession said...

Great story! Love it! The OPPOSITE of heinous!

3:37 PM  

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