teaching

Confessions of a Hall Monitor

Last week I (Erin) was called a nasty name by a student. I won’t repeat the offending words in this space, but let’s just say he didn’t call me a clucking snitch.

Allow me to give you some context.

I have officially been deputized to monitor the PDA issues in the halls of my school. I’m not the most confrontational person (or teacher for that matter), but I was up to the task because I’m happy to do most things when asked. Also, I’m generally regarded at work as the person who won’t say no, so maybe I got played.

When I was deputized – and yes, that was the word used, deputized – it was because other students, not just teachers, were complaining about too much making out in the hallways. I was asked to put a stop to any couple engaged in an excessive public display of affection. I asked for a Sheriff’s badge and jumped in headfirst.

When I approached these two young people and requested of them to please tone it down, cut it out, and head along to class, I expected them to look sheepish, maybe even embarrassed, perhaps even ashamed that they had been caught, and to obey.

Instead, I was met from the boy with a piercing glare that felt like a sucker punch. Then the retort that no, he wasn’t going to move. And yes, I was a clucking snitch.

I felt sad and angry. I know he’s just a sixteen-year-old kid. He probably has a crappy home life. Who knows what has happened in his young life that caused him to say these things to a teacher. But that didn’t lessen the sting. No one has ever called me those two words, at least not to my face. (Perhaps Scooter Thomas meows them in the only way he knows how now that he’s no longer mama’s numero uno. But no matter.)

I felt hopeless for this kid’s future. Hates school, hates people, hates Mrs. Vore. And he’s not the only one. Today, I counted at least twelve F-bombs from indiscriminate passers-by in the hallways.

I worry about Sam becoming a teenager.

Nearly all of the school scenes in the film version of Anne of Green Gables display the ideal education: a gifted educator who meets the needs of all students (and in a one room schoolhouse, no less); students who come prepared with the day’s needed materials, be it slate, texts, chalk or an apple for the teacher; a nice, neat lesson about the importance of spelling chrysanthemum correctly. Disobedient children were swiftly dealt with; they usually apologized for their wrongdoing. Unruly children were not tolerated at all. In general, students behaved and were eager to learn. If anything, it offered a break from milking cows or churning butter.

I love Anne of Green Gables and I’ve often fantasized about teaching in Avonlea. In 1905. And that Ben’s birth name was Gilbert Blythe.

But that’s a different story.

This post is running the risk of sounding pedantic and preachy. That’s not my intention. I hope that none of my thoughts begin with “When I was their age…”, except that I have to in order to fully capture the life of this schoolteacher.

When I was my students’ age, it was 1995. I was in a stage where I liked to wear brightly colored boxers as shorts to school. I had just bought my first pair of gray New Balance shoes (I’ve gone through four pairs in my lifetime). A few months prior I would’ve watched the OJ Simpson verdict in geometry class. I was feeling the stir of rebellion rising in me, but all around I was a good student and a good kid. My parents raised me to say please and thank you, and even on the rare occasions when I uttered a curse word, it was hushed and private, lest I get caught. At least that’s how I remember myself. Never, ever, ever, even if I felt angry toward a teacher, would I have the gall to say to her what this student said to me.

I know there were “bad” kids back then. They may have even been in my classes; students shouldn’t be judged by their hairstyle or attire, just as books aren’t to be judged by their jackets. Unless that book is Middlemarch. Then, by God, judge away!

I think about Anne in the Anne of Green Gables, the Sequel, and how she got a job at a top boarding school for girls and had to deal with those rich snobs, the Pringles. They were a nasty bunch and did everything to break Anne down, get her fired, or get her to resign. By the end of the film, Anne and the Pringles are hugging and chummy.

I wonder if Anne Shirley taught at my school, if she would win my offending student over. In the meantime, I’m still waiting for my Sheriff’s badge.