Pretend to be Nice

Teacher-Moms, on the edge…

What did you call me?

The first time I was called a bitch it was just after the students in my room had turned in their booklets during a standardized state test but before the booklets were taken from my room by the officially trained bucket keepers. This is one of the most tense times during the testing- kids are not allowed to do anything but have their heads down or stare straight ahead. A boy who I did not know had manifested a piece of paper and a pen and was doodling at his desk in the back of the room. The pen against paper was inordinately loud because of the mandated silence. I walked over to him and saw that his drawing had some merit. I said something like,

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“I see you like to draw. I have to take that until the councilor takes the bucket from the room.”

He pulled the paper to the far side of his desk before I could put my hand on it.

“I’ll give it back as soon as I can.” I said.

He stared at me with a smirk as I stood with my empty hand outstretched. He sucked in his cheeks and continued to eye-ball me.

“You did hear the instructions at the beginning of the test, didn’t you? No objects on student desks until the bucket is out the door.”

Almost all eyes were upon us now. He whipped his hand from under his desk and slammed it down on the paper, startling the few children who opted for having their heads down. He crumbled it into a ball and tossed it around me, a beautiful shot that hit the wall mounted pencil sharpener and rebounded into the trash. He tilted his head just a bit and raised his eyebrows to say, “You happy now?” I smiled a big toothy smile and turned to go back to my perch guarding the bucket. Breathe. Keep breathing. Whoever he is, whoever he has for English, he will be out of your life in a few minutes. And then it happened.

“Bitch!”

My back straightened. I turned my head in disbelief. I would have thought I misunderstood had it not been for the 4 students sitting at the surrounding desks all leaning away from him. Their instincts pulling them to disassociate from this danger. The protocol for such a transgression was not in the testing handbook. Keep breathing. I hung my head down and studied my shoes a moment. If anything remotely like this would happen in a class of mine I would ask the student to meet me in the hall and then I would dazzle them with some fancy footwork thanks to the guys at Love and Logic. But I was forbidden to leave the room during this testing. So, I looked up again, shrugged my shoulders a bit and sighed like, “what can I do?” and walked back to my podium where I keep office referrals. I leaned forward, rested my chin in my hand and looked at all the dear sweet faces staring at me. Some pitied me, some looked offended for me. One boy on the basketball team cocked his head in the offender’s direction as if to say, “You want me to take care of him for you?” I smiled and shook it off, it was nothing.

Once the tension settled and the eyes began to study the posters for the millionth time or look out the window I picked up my pen. I filled in the referral with all the details but his name. I only read it once this morning. When the bucket retriever came for the bucket I looked up the boy’s name before dropping the attendance sheet on the top of the papers. We each signed the state provided document like a police department chain of evidence. I announced that we were now entering the phase of waiting in which the students could help themselves to coloring sheets, crossword puzzles or their journals if they were in the classroom, they still needed to refrain from talking to each other because of the rules of testing. As the kids I actually had a relationship with got up to get whatever they needed to kill the time they returned to seats I had not assigned them to. I saw the gulf of empty seats that grew around Chris Mullins and didn’t say a thing. I must say more journals than crossword puzzles were taken out on that day of testing. In the back of my mind I thought of all the different accounts of this event that were being written for me (in case I needed corroborating evidence).

In the meantime, I filled in his name on the referral and kept it on the podium. When the announcement was made that all buckets had been collected in our wing the class erupted into hisses and sniggers. I headed to the back of the room, busying myself with the order of a bookcase so I would be between Mullins and the door. When the bell finally rang I turned gently and handed him his pink copy. He grabbed it and was lost in the hall crowd immediately.

The next period was eighth grade lunch. Everyone already heard the news when I stepped into our team room. Coach Strummer was totally sympathetic towards me, “That kid is such a punk! I just wish he wasn’t the best player I have on B team.”  This infraction would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Chris would not be allowed to play in the next game. We all talked it to death and I agreed for the good of the rest of the players if Chris wrote a letter of apology and Strummer called me down to the gym and in front of all his cronies Mullins read it out loud, I would retract the referral, because I hadn’t turned my copies into the office yet.

Honestly, I didn’t agree to this ‘for the good of the team”. I agreed because after laughing about it with my cronies the incident didn’t mean anything to me. I kid I didn’t know, who obviously was working out some issues he had with someone else, took me on in front of other students who I do have a relationship with. Kids I love saw me react like a calm, in control adult. When my students come into class occasionally disturbed because “somebody said something” to them I have always told them to think of themselves as a Teflon pan. “Just because someone tosses an egg at you doesn’t mean you have to let it stick.” That day was a brilliant example.

When Chris walked into 7th period science that day, Coach Strummer let the class settle down and called Mullins to the hallway. He asked him to explain what had happened during testing in Mrs. Jensen’s room. Strummer later told us that Chris had said he said, “My balls itch. Not Bitch.” Coach was so disgusted with his player that he called my room right then and told me to go ahead and turn in the office referral.

Not to be able to play in a game could have brought the wrath of a kid like that down on me, or my car. After a while the whole thing sort of faded away. The next year I had a Mullins on my class roster, Chris’s brother, who turned out to be a great kid and one of my biggest fans.

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9 comments on “What did you call me?

  1. Holly
    June 8, 2014

    Great reflection on a not so great event. Sadly these things like to burst our content bubble for at least a moment.

    • andreazjensen
      June 10, 2014

      Yes, Holly! That why our bubbles need to be Teflon coated, especially teachers.

      • Holly
        June 10, 2014

        And psychologists in prisons… My current reality although I’m about to commence my teaching degree lol

  2. Tempest Rose
    June 9, 2014

    Hello there! Letting you know that I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! I love your writing, your outlook, your message, and even how much you love math (I have never been a fan myself — but you have me interested!)
    Check out what to do next here: http://wp.me/p374p6-WY

  3. anntogether.com
    June 10, 2014

    I hear your pain and I’m just a humble sub. I was trained as a backup proctor for these very tests, but spent my time escorting students to the potty. You handled the situation like the deft pro you are. In the same situation, my Italian would have gotten spicy red and I’d have had a difficult time maintaining composure.
    I know as a sub, my classroom experiences are definitely tainted. But, I do remember when I was a kid, we were also happy when there was a sub because there might be less classwork or no homework, however, we rarely disrespected the adult in the room. Today, in my opinion, many children don’t even have the sense that they should respect anyone…
    I do believe one day the students themselves will grow tired of bad peer behavior…
    AnnMarie
    Mr. Mullins may grow up to be one of those people who has to apologize to many attendees at his high school reunion for being such an ‘ass.’

    • andreazjensen
      June 10, 2014

      AnnMarie,
      Thanks for your comment. Subbing is a tough gig! All roles in school boil down to respect, I think.
      I checked out your blog! You have so many cool things going on at home I bet you are a pretty cool sub, too.
      Have you posted any of your YA fiction on the site? I would love to read it.
      Andrea

      • anntogether.com
        June 10, 2014

        You’re welcome. I’d liken subbing to vacuuming the house while teaching is running the entire household while keeping the house clean. 🙂 I do like to have fun with the kids and joke around when you think you have a class you can snap right back into work mode.
        Thank you for visiting my little home.
        A friend twice removed is working on a functional design for me which would include more of my art and yes, some of my manuscripts. The redesign should be ready sometime very soon. I’m hoping to put a few up this summer…thank you very much for the interest.
        AnnMarie 🙂

  4. accidentallyreflective
    June 10, 2014

    Wow a huge credit to you for keeping calm and setting a good example. I don’t think I would have managed to do it as well as you. I need to apply some of this teflon-coating to my not so thick skin too! 🙂

    • andreazjensen
      June 11, 2014

      The teflon visualization is an adult version of “I’m rubber, you’re glue!” It works.

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TeacherPop

| A blog for new teachers, hosted by Teach For America.

DFW Writers Workshop

Writers helping writers since 1977

The Social Norma

"I don't cut the ribbon at the opening of markets. I don't stand next to the mayor. Hit your baseball into my yard, and you'll never see it again." - Tom Waits

autismthoughts

My experiences with autism, depression, and life

LisaListed

The best things in life aren't things at all

The Zero-Waste Chef

No packaging. Nothing processed. No waste.

Notes From Dawn

with hope, life is more than just bearable

Properly Ridiculous

Mostly Pleasant [Possibly Offensive] Perceptions

Officially Gluten Free

Have your cake and eat it too, without feeling sick.

Chaos Girl & the Real World

{A Slightly Disjointed Life}

5powerdotorg.wordpress.com/

Chronicles from the Mama Duck - Raising teenagers...family...faith...

anntogether

AM Roselli's art & writing site

User Generated Education

Education as it should be - passion-based.

Sass & Balderdash

Always tongue in cheek, often egg on face.

Live to Write - Write to Live

We live to write and write to live ... professional writers talk about the craft and business of writing

coolcookstyle

Find it, cook it, make it your own.

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

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