Monday, October 23, 2006

New Thing #169: I gave a kid detention

New Thing #169: On Friday, I gave my first detention ever. My least favorite thing about being a substitute teacher is the disciplinarian aspect of it, but it has to be done. If you're going to come into my class and start calling people asshole and calling people gay and hitting kids--and that's what this kid was doing on Friday, repeatedly--then you're going to get detention.

So now, today, Monday, I'm at the same school I was at on Friday, but I'm in a different classroom. It's second period. This is junior high school--seventh grade. In other words, hell. (Oh, and it's my alma mater, too, which is strange and surreal. I swear to god this school is The School That Time Forgot.) (Every single inch of the school looks exactly like how I remember it, nothing has freaking changed.) (On Friday, we had an assembly in the gymnasium and so many memories flooded through my head; most vivid was my election speech for 8th Grade Class President.) (I feel like I've blogged about that fateful day before, but if you weren't reading the blog back then, here are the cliffnotes: it was supposed to be the best day of my life; instead it was anything but. I was naive and fresh and excited and I truly believed that I could make a difference. My campaign slogan, slathered on posters all over the school, was "Erik Patterson's mom wants you to Pat Her Son with your vote." [I'm not making that up.] [Seriously.] [That's how big a dork I was.] [I honestly thought that was a brilliant campaign slogan.] ["Erik Patterson's mom wants you to Pat Her Son with your vote."] [Actually, now I think it IS a brilliant campaign slogan, but in seventh grade it ended up being totally. Completely. Mortifying.] I had this great speech prepared, mostly about how I wanted to get the blacktop repaved and how I was going to "bring back the read-a-thon." [I remember that very specifically. One of the boys in P.E. asked me what my campaign promises were, and when I told him I was going to bring back the read-a-thon, he was like, "who wants to read?" And in my head I was like "I do," but I knew enough to just keep my mouth shut. We were, after all, in P.E., and I didn't want to get pantsed.] Anyway, flash forward to speech day. We're in the gymnasium. They started with the secretary speeches, then the treasurer speeches, then the vice president speeches, [there was this girl Kirra Steel, who I would later go to my junior prom with, who was running for vice president--during her speech, she asked everyone in the gymnasium to stand up and look to the left and then after everyone did exactly as she asked them to, she said "look at that, we're already working well together," and I remember that all of the other candidates were like "wow, Kirra really brought her A-game, that was the speech they're going to be talking about tomorrow, I wish I'd thought of that"], and then, finally, it was time for the President speeches. There were three of us running for President, and alphabetically I was the third in line, which meant I was going to be the last person to give a speech. This kid Graham went first, his speech went well. Then Katie Hawkins gave her speech, which was even better. And then it was my turn to step up to the podium. I was very nervous. I had my speech written out on flash cards and I didn't look up at the crowd until I was on my third flash card. And that's when the sounds of laughter started to seep into my consciousness. I had been so concentrated on what I was saying that I hadn't heard them. But as soon as I looked up, it was like God had turned the volume in the gymnasium up, way up, and I suddenly realized that everyone was laughing at me and then I heard someone yelling--like, SCREAMING at me--"We can't hear you!!!" And then I felt a hand on my shoulder and one of the teachers told me that the speaker system had broke and that I'd have to yell the rest of my speech. So I stepped in front of the podium and started yelling as loud as I could about read-a-thons. But I had lost the crowd, no one was listening, it was awful. The next day, one of my friends who was alread on the ASB told me that I'd only received two votes, and I knew that one of them had been mine. Katie Hawkins won--and she deserved it, she was totally presidential.) Anyway, sorry, but I was in the gymnasium on Friday and that whole experience came alive for me again, and it's kinda fucked up that junior high school even exists, like, in reality, you know? Like, maybe as a concept it's a good idea, but in reality we should really spare all of our kids the horrors. The horrors.

But moving on, back to today: the kids are supposed to be reading silently and taking notes on one of the chapters in their textbook. And the kid I gave detention to on Friday? Yeah, he's in my class again. When he walked into the classroom, I heard him say "dammit" and then he ran out into the hall. And then he came back into the room a minute later and he was like, "hello, Mr. Patterson, thanks for giving me detention." And I wish that I hadn't needed to give him detention, but he was out of control and I tried, I tried, but finally detention was the only thing that would get him to settle down and do his work. Now he's sitting in his desk looking at me like I'm the enemy and talking about me under his breath--he doesn't think I can hear him, but I can SO hear him--or maybe he knows I can hear him and that's why he's talking about me. Either way, I wish that he was reading his textbook right now instead of calling me names. But I just don't know how to get through to him the fact that doing your work is ultimately going to be so much more satisfying than being a bully. How do you get that message through to a thirteen-year-old kid?

14 comments:

joe chandler said...

Wow. Kirra really did bring her A-Game. My slogan when I ran for Commissioner of Publicity was "I'm 6'6"

I hadn't grown the last inch yet.

Anonymous said...

Kirra totally brought her A-game. I voted for her.

And Joe, did you win on you 6'6" platform? Because if you didn't win, I would blame the last inch.

Erik said...

Um...I don't know why that last comment showed up as Anonymous. I thought I was signed in. Anyway, it was me.

joe chandler said...

I definitely won. My humor campaign defeated the very popular Megan W. I believe she was fairly upset that the tall, gangly dork bested her in a popularity contest.

Erik said...

The tall, gangly dork doesn't win nearly enough popularity contests. Let's hear it for the tall, gangly dork!

Jesse said...

"Erik Patterson's mom wants you to Pat Her Son with your vote." is by far the funniest thing I will read today. I just LOL'ed in my cubicle.

As for the angry closted boy, tell him about read-a-thons!

Erik said...

Jesse, how pathetic am I that I truly, honestly, deeply MISS read-a-thons.

Donnie said...

Wandered over here to your blog via Doug's "Turning The Light Around" blog of his.

I loved this post! You, sir, are a credit...being brave enough to sub Junior High. I teach at the community college level and I still often feel like I'm teaching the "13th Grade".

Erik said...

Thanks Donnie. What subject do you teach?

The junior high kids are tough. O prefer high school. High school kids are fun and smart. Except when they aren't. But most of the time they are.

I also substitute in the elementary school level, and that can be difficult too, but more because the kids have so much energy and it's hard to retain their attention. Much different from the difficulties of junior high school kids, which is more because they are going through the most hellacious years of their lives and they want you to feel some of the pain.

Bonnie said...

Your current blogs make me wish I'd kept a better journal when I was subbing (and I had a very similar flood of memories when I started subbing at my alma mater--it's just WEIRD).

And I don't know if any of the a-holes ever really grow up and GET that they were a-holes and feel bad for it in any way.

Wait. That's not true. A guy who bullied me in high school self-Googled and found a meme I did in which I had to name someone I'd hit in school and he emailed me to apologize for having been such an a-hole in high school (causing the major problem that led to my hitting him, which is a story you'd love love love love love; along with my Donna Martin Graduates type story from later in high school, but I digress). He said he was so miserable and alone in high school and he doesn't even remember treating me badly but he's sure that he did and definitely knows he deserved my punches when it finally all came down... but being closeted and miserable and jealous of talented, pretty girls in school will do that to a guy who is built like a football player and expected to be a jock.

Poor guy.

I'm so glad that I remembered this just now.

Because basically I suppose I'm telling you that the kid WILL possibly someday remember he was an a-hole (or someone will remind him) and it'll be because he just didn't have a sense of SELF... and survived the only way his animal instincts told him to.

Man, that shit is deep.

Definitely more than 31 watermelons.

Anonymous said...

Okay, first of all and not to take anything away from your blog entry Erik, but Bonnie's comment about the bully that found her and apologized...wow! That did my heart good!
I could never substitute teach in my junior high because they tore it down to build low income housing...which is just as well since those were some pretty awful years for me. Even my high school...there isn't enough police protection in the world to make me go back there even for a day! Yes, I'm from New York!!!
Good for you for running for President though...and for sending that kid to detention! You never know how you impact others. It could be one little piece of the puzzle that puts his life on track. You never know!

Erik said...

Bonnie, I agree with my cousin Ilene (who commented below you) (hi Ilene!)--that shit IS deep. It's fuckin' FORTY-one watermelons. I love that your bully found you by self-googling.

I hope Kirra finds herself by self-googling. Because my 10-year-reunion is coming up in November but I have a feeling no one is going to be there.

Anonymous said...

I wish you were my substitute teacher, Erik. It makes me sad that you had to relive that experience. It makes me want to protect you. I guess it's never too late. I'm going to come and protect you.

I also ran for 8th grade president and lost. To the boy who would become my boyfriend for 3 years in high school, Dan Laggner. He was the class clown. He ran on a platform of having bubble gum come out of water fountains, which doesn't really seem possible but kids who are stupid enough to vote for him for that apparently didn't give much thought to the physics of it. I don't remember what my own platform was, it was so boring and filled with integrity.

Anyway, of course Dan won. I was mortified because if I wasn't going to win, then I wouldn't have bothered ruining my life with making a speech. Dan didn't do anything for our 8th grade class.

Needless to say, it motivated me to run for class president and I was president for our 9th, 10th, and 12th grade. Dan later told me that he ran against me because he was doing the whole making-my-life-miserable-because-he-likes-me thing. I thought that was stupid. In our senior year, Dan ran against me and I won.

So you see, the real winners ARE the ones who love Read-A-Thons, it just takes us a while to come out on top. Oh, and no matter how much your parents try to make you feel better, losing sucks.

Eleanor

willam said...

put it in his permanent record.
i've never seen mine but lots of things apparently went in it. must be huge by now.