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?