So, I am thrilled to finally have some more funny stories to share from work. I haven't been having some thrillingly wonderful days, recently, but things have gotten better this past week.
I have a student who has been in and out of Transition a variety of times in the past several weeks. He is a swarthy, stocky kid whose nickname (bestowed by the school's administrators) is Sling Blade. He has a rather deep voice, for a seventh grader, and either mumbles or barks (the latter always without warning and at inappropriate times). He has a halting cadence to his words, and ducks his head and quirks his eyebrow when they stumble out. And he is one of the funniest kids I've ever encountered. Sling Blade is a fairly active gangbanger (he claims Fresno Bulldogs) and has a tough attitude and a potty mouth, but I've never felt him to be at all dangerous or threatening. He makes me laugh.
For example, he was once in Transition with a few of his ESF BDS homies, and they were messing around. When students are noisy and disrespectful, I put marks up on the board for minutes that they will have to stay in after the bell rings at the end of the day. Sling Blade was one of the most disruptive, until he figured out that he'd have to stay in with me after school until I saw fit to release him. He started growling at his buddies, "$%&!, you guys! Shut the %^&!$ up! I don't want to stay after school. %&*!@!"
This week, we were doing standardized testing. Sling Blade came in wearing red shoes (red is against the school dress code), and started (with his buddies) being disruptive and making threats about jumping another student. The admins confiscated his shoes during the break. He came back to the room after the break in his stockinged feet, and muttered, in his hoarse monotone, "They took my shoes. I want my shoes back!" He had to finish the day of testing in just his socks. It was funny, if you were there.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of the company of a certain three students who were put in for ditching school. I get students caught for skipping class all the time, so this in itself was not notable. Their situation, however, was interesting: they'd been brought in for truancy by the cops. I started chatting with them during lunch time, which is really the best way to get a boatload of middle school gossip, and unearthed more of the story.
"We weren't really skipping school," they said to me. "Just first and second periods, because we don't like those. We were going to come back for third period." Uh-huh. I'm sure the police thought their logic was impeccable..
The three boys (let's call them John, Paul, and George) had a partner-in-crime who wasn't with us at the time. This fellow (let's call him Ringo) had recently moved, and instead of going to school that day, he and his pals went over to his old abandoned house and got inside (John, Paul, and George assured me that it was not actually breaking and entering, because they hadn't broken anything; there were no knobs on the doors, so they just were able to go in. More flawless logic.).
They proceeded to mess around, as young boys will do, and somehow a neighbor saw activity in the abandoned house and called the police. The four boys had just begun a rousing game of cops-and-robbers when the police arrived at the front door and shouted, "This is the police. Come out!" ["We thought it was ironic," Paul said, "that the real cops showed up when we were playing that game." No sarcasm intended: Color me impressed by a seventh grader's proper and utterly timely use of the word ironic in a sentence.]
"When we heard that, at first, we didn't come out because we thought it was a black guy with a crow bar trying to hurt us," they told me. "We were scared, and thought he was trying to trick us into coming out." [Note: I was never able to glean from them the origin of the black-guy-with-a-crowbar idea, but these little guys are all Hispanic, and as I've noted before, there is a lot of tension, distrust, and prejudice in a well-documented black-versus-brown urban struggle. It just goes to show how deeply rooted certain attitudes are in subcultures and communities, if little kids are already picking up racist attitudes and internalizing them.] Meanwhile, John attempted to sneak out the back door, only to be met by the business end of a police gun. The cops had them thoroughly scared and subdued in a short amount of time, and Ringo was put in cuffs and taken away from the others, who were booked with OSIS (Operation Stay in School) and then toted unceremoniously back to our campus.
After John, Paul, and George finished relating their little tale of law enforcement-flavored woe, I laughed long and hard and then, at the cafeteria lunchtable, attempted to impress upon them the seriousness of their behavior and its consequences. I can only hope that even one of them really listened.
Middle school: Come for the witty repartee, stay for the poignant life lessons.