Monday, August 20, 2007

Catch up with Poison

posted by Majestic Ape at 12:44 PM

The last time that I wrote anything about Ape Life or lack of Ape life was just after our arrival home from the Springtime SXSW tour 2007. I had just arrived home to a very old car that needed major repairs. The cost of the repairs inspired that old familiar terror of having no money for food, shelter, transportation.

Within an hour of posting the blog requesting job offers, I was hired as a middle school computer technology teacher for a Montgomery County, MD middle school. It would prove to be one of the more interesting/entertaining work experiences that I have had. I knew I had picked a winner, when on the first day, the kids tried to poison me—not once, but twice. I'm sure they didn't mean to, not really.

I taught 5 classes a day. My first period was an advanced computer applications class for 8th graders. These students were highly conscientious and studious. They were self-directed and after my first class, I felt confident that I had made the right decision in coming to work in a place where most of the kids looked much bigger and older than me. 2nd period was free. Great. I could take a walk, get coffee across the street, use the gym in the school's basement, work on my personal creative endeavors. At the end of this free time, the bell rang and I stood out in the hall to welcome my third period. I was only slightly alarmed by the apparent disregard that a few of these kids obviously had for any instruction or authority. When I launched into my little introduction speech,"Hi! My name is Ms. Kleinman but you can call me Miss K. I used to be a full time teacher but now I am in a rock band. You can find more information about my band at"....most of the kids had tuned into online hip- hop videos, YouTube, Ebay, and computer games. Ahem. This class took a little work and a lot of love, but eventually, I did get almost everyone to listen, work, and learn, whilst having a good deal of fun.

5th period was a 7th grade class designed to teach kids about college. The lessons were scripted based on a text and a workbook. The text was boring as hell. I was able to captivate my little audience by being a rebel within the system but still teaching every objective in the curriculum. I made up weird web searches and had the kids hunt down odd facts about University Life and let them make animated powerpoints telling the class about what major they might choose in college. The kids were mostly quite sweet and very respectful.

By 6th period, I was beginning to relax, even though I had been warned over and over about the challenges that were going to walk through that door. The bell rang. I stood out in the hall as 5th period left. I waited and waited. Eventually, one boy in leg-braces scooted in and the bell rang. I asked my lone student where the rest of the class was. He said that they were on their way. Over the next 15 minutes, a wide variety of scantily clad and highly sporty 8th grade students waltzed in. They had no interest in the little pieces of paper I distributed that read, "Tardiness not Tolerated". This class wasn't even interested in the computer. They wanted to fight amongst each other. They wanted to throw papers, books and monitors. They wanted to dump soda on computer keyboards and CPU's. They wanted to show little miss long term substitute teacher that they were 100% and completely in charge.

I was not exactly sure whether to (a)ignore them and teach anyway, (b) micro manage (which would have been impossible), or (c) call for back-up. I figured I couldn't call for help on day one. I would NEVER earn respect if I gave up that easily. I used a weak combination of large group teaching while standing on a chair and trying to micro- manage from the front of the room. This was not in any way effective. I never lost control or raised my voice. In fact, I continued to smile while wondering what the hell I was going to do.

When the bell rang, the kids ran out of the room. I walked over to my desk and started to drink from my cup of water. For some reason, I looked inside the cup. There was a clear glob of hand sanitizer floating in it. Jesus. Thank god I looked in it. Those little pieces of crap. I was dumbfounded and horrified. I was so horrified that I had to reach for another beverage to ease the pain. I grabbed the can of warm diet coke from my desk and poured it down my throat. Dumb. Really really dumb. I got a nice swallow of diet coke and Purell.

My 7th period was already filing in. It was a 6th grade typing class—they were totally self-directed. I didn't even take role. I called the office and asked someone to cover my class so I could go to the nurse. The secretary couldn't hear me so I had to shout and all the kids looked at me like I was crazy. My throat was burning by that time and the humiliation of the scene was only making matters worse.

A very nice lady appeared in the door a few minutes later (it was the same secretary from the office) and monitered my class while I went to the school health room for the first time in 16 years. I got to call poison control center number located on the back of the Mr. Yuck sticker. The poison control call center informed me that the accidental ingestion of hand sanitizer is very common and I shouldn't worry unless I had consumed more than 1 bottle. I had not.
Her advice--Drink lots of water.

I felt like an ass.

I had to go back for day 2.

When the vice principal came to my room at the begining of 6th period, I felt sick to my stomach. They were going to hate me now. He stood at the front of the room and told the kids someone was going to be charged with attempted murder if the offender didn't step forward. I was mortified. The kids were given the opportunity to rat someone out on paper. They ALL had to write letters explaining exactly what they were doing for the entire 6th period, the day before.

At the end of class, the Vice Principal left first. The rest of the kids gathered round me.

"Are you okay?" That's horrible! Who would do such a thing? Are you going to press charges? Are you going to press charges? Will there be an investigation?"

They knew those big words well. I sensed this hadn't been the first time an event like this had occurred.

I told them I wouldn't press charges if they got their shit together real quick. I don't know exactly why that was a magic statement but for much of the rest of the semester, I was a highly favored teacher in that middle school. I was visited before school, during lunch, after school. I told stories. We looked at websites together. I definitely taught the required applications and came up with some great creative projects for the kids to do, but we still had a blast together. I miss them something awful.

On my last day, the administrators asked if I was interested in returning to teaching full time. They offered letters of recommendations and choice positions in the county.



Next entry- Summer Camp 2007 and the running accident.


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