I teach high school, technically.
I left the elementary school scene after more than a decade for the more cerebral, more mature arena of teenagers.
Truthfully, I just needed a job at the time. I thought I could extend my year off of being a self-employed writer and blogger, but when my tub started leaking and my air conditioning unit started sounding like Chewbacca and Claudia, my roommate at the time, proclaimed, “Susan, get that goddamned thing fixed! It’s ninety-five degrees in here!” I knew I had to go back to work. The good ol’ days of writing and drinking during the day were over.
Elementary school kids will teach you a lot. They remind you that shoe-tying is an art form not necessarily imparted at birth, and that the need to use the bathroom is sometimes limited to a three-second warning. They teach you curse words they hear at home that you didn’t even hear while serving in the military, but after using them profusely when you take away their recess, they really just want a hug at the end of the day anyway.
High school is… not much different.
I shall now demonstrate this theory by using a comprehensive comparison of my 2A and 3A classes.
My 2A class has four junior girls and one fresh-woman. Here is some sample dialogue on any given day:
Girl #1: [Bell rings] Hi Ms. Sistare. How are you today? I’d like to finish my Spanish test this period if there is any free time. [has a seat quietly]
Girl #2: Good morning Ms. Sistare! Do you have any extra work I can do to improve my grade? I’d like to bring it up to an A. [has a seat quietly]
Girl #3: Hi! How’s your day going? I hope I’m not late. Has the bell rung? [has a seat quietly]
Girls #4 and 5: Hi Ms. S. That’s a nice scarf you’re wearing. Is it wool? What’s our assignment today? [sitting quietly as the bell rings]
Me: Good morning, ladies. Nice to see you. Dang, you guys are so quiet. [distributing laptops to teenage girls already working independently]
Contrary to popular myth, teenage girls (at least my 2A) are pleasant, mellow, and eager to work. There is no drama, or if there is, they save it for someone else’s classroom. They routinely ask me if they can look at their grades and rectify any missing assignments in any of their classes, and they never fail to produce their spiral agendas so I can check to make sure their test dates are properly logged. They always are, usually in colored pen in a girly-style script. When they bell rings, they put away their laptops without fuss, bid me a fond adieu, and exit the classroom in a manner that does not resemble a starving ape on a rampage for the pile of bananas or Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the distance.
I have approximately three minutes from the time my civilized girls leave until six teenage boys (if indeed they can be called human boys) storm through the classroom doors giggling furiously just in time to not be counted tardy. Here is a typical day in 3A:
Boy #1 farts gleefully as he comes in the door. Late.
Boys #2-6 laugh hysterically.
Boy #3 forgets his backpack.
Boy #4 does not have a pencil.
Boy #5 farts.
Boys #1-6 laugh hysterically.
Boy #6 has to go to the bathroom.
Boy #5 claims the smell is so bad that he has to go to the bathroom too because he wants to throw up.
Boy #2 claims the same thing.
Boy #3 declares that Boys #2 and #5 are faking it because they just want to go kiss their girlfriends.
Boy #1 says they are lying because they don’t have girlfriends, they just want to go scribble crap about the assistant principal on the bathroom walls.
Boys #5-6 declare Boy #1 is a liar, which precipitates a shouting match about each other’s mothers.
Boys #1-6 have all forgotten that there is a test today.
Boy #4 farts.
Assistant Principal pages my room and requests the presence of Boy #6 in his office.
Boys #1-5 commence a round of “Oooooohhh!”
Boy #3 burps and farts simultaneously.
Boy #4 produces a sandwich and Cheetos from his backpack, and a round of protests courses through the room because Ms. Sistare does not allow food in class so why should he get to eat when no one else can.
Boy #3 claims this is unfair and produces an economy-sized bag of potato chips. He proceeds to eat so loudly as to drown out the bulldozer behind the building.
Boy #2 farts.
And so on.
These are the days when I do not miss teaching elementary school, because I realize that I still do.
After Boy #6 has left for the assistant principal’s office and they have seemingly gotten all of the gas out of their systems, they settle down just long enough for me to announce that there is a test today and if I hear another peep out of any one of them I am just going to snap.
Boy #4 farts. It is tiny, like an accidental church fart, but audible enough to break the temporary scared silence and send them into hysterics.
You know what the hardest part of all this is? It’s holding in my laughter until I can get home, have a drink, and write a blog about it.
In case there is any question, I love being a teacher. It’s just that, sometimes, I wish I taught students and not apes.
When Boys #1-6 hear the first split second of the bell ring at the end of the period, they are already sprinting for the door. I always tell them to have a nice day, and don’t forget to bring their pencils next time, or something else pedagogical and wasted on them. It is usually no use. They invariably leave trash, track marks on the cheap carpet, and teenage boy gas in their wake.
There’s always that one, though, that wants a hug before he leaves. They are my babies, so it is difficult to say no to that.
That is, until I have lunch duty later, and overhear some other boys talking about how Boy #3 likes to feel Ms. Sistare’s boobs and that’s why he likes hugs.
I love teaching high school.