02 October 2004


After school.

Mr. S: Hey, how was your day?
Me: Let's just say that I'm doing much better now than I was 20 minutes ago.
MS: Fridays!
Me: Gotta love 'em.
MS: So what happened?
Me: (sighing) I don't know, I had to give a kid a referral today and that just made me unhappy for the rest of the day. You know.
MS: These kids are something else! They're out of control! I don't know how you work with middle schoolers all day long!
Me: (laughing) Neither do I!!
MS: I just lost it the other day!
Me: Yeah, I lost my temper the other day, too.
TT: (walking up) Hey guys.
MS: Larry, you probably heard it!
TT: What?
MS: When I lost it the other day.
TT: (laughing) Yeah! I was in my portable, and I hear this guy screaming in the next portable over.
MS: I stood up there in front of the class and I yelled, "You guys are all a bunch of -- (whispering) ASS-HOLES!"
Me: You didn't!
TT: (Laughing) My whole class heard it!
Me: Well, Laney kicks them.
TT: In my first years of teaching, when they'd give me shit, I'd just throw them up against the wall and pin them there, coupla inches off the floor. Those were the days!
MS: Yeah, you can't touch 'em now... too bad!
TT: The other day I walked over to this kid and pounded my fist on his desk so hard that it still hurts!
MS: I grab 'em by the neck sometimes, pretending to be all friendly, but I squeeze hard, and they beg me to let go!!
Me: ................well.... I guess I don't feel so bad for kicking the door open the other day. At least I didn't touch him.
MS: Yeah, good for you! You should get meaner! Kick more doors!
TT: Once I actually tackled a kid, took him down, for flipping me the bird!
MS: Ha ha ha!
Me: Oh my god... I got into teaching thinking I could make a difference... thinking I could make middle school a better place. And now... all my ideals from college are like... PPBBBBBTTTT!!

7th period.

Bronwin: La la la la! I'm hyper! I'm hyper!
Me: Bronwin, chill out.
Bronwin: But... I'm hyper.
Me: Dude, I know. But you need to read today, okay?
Bronwin: ..... did you just call me dude??
Me: Read!
Brownin: (whispering) She called me dude!
Adam: (whispering back) Yeah, that's because she's the COOL teacher!

1st period.

TT: Many people think this election will be a record voter turn out, which means that Bush might be in trouble. Do you know why?
Earl: Oh! Because Bush, like, bombed all those dudes?

TT: Does anyone know how the city of Artesia got its name?
Jerrod: From the President's daughter!
Melody: (beat) What president??


Confession: Yesterday I kicked a student out of my class, and it made my day!! I'd just had enough, so I grabbed his binder and portfolio folder and literally kicked the outside door open and slammed his stuff down on a desk that was sitting outside the art room door. He followed me meekly and I said, "I am so over this!" And then I left him outside and slammed back into my room, and the class was totally quiet for almost 3 whole minutes!

7th period.

Me: Edwin, I'm glad you're back! Without you, our class was so much less...
Edwin: Depressing?
Me: I was going to say fun! I was going to say sunny!
Ty: (whispering) She was going to say depressing!

Gary: Ms. Backes, what's the word that means there are voices in your head that tell you what to do?
Me: Well... like if someone has a mental illness?
Gary: Yeah.
Me: Well, schizophrenia...
Gary: Yeah, that's it!
Me: But you have to be careful how you use that word. Many people use it incorrectly, like if they're talking about having two opinions about a topic, and that's offensive to some people.
Gary: Naw, I know what it means. My mom's, you know, a shrink.
Me: Oh, really?
Gary: Yeah. She has her degree in, you know, shrinkism.


Jerrod: (trips and falls on his face; stands up and tries to look dignified) It's so hard to fit three people in this one small body!

Evidence that I've become, as my students would say, a "full-pledged" loser....

Bill: Ms. Backes, what would you do if you were invisible?
Me: Um....
Marsha: Sneak up on people?
Bill: Rob a bank?
Andrew: Break into a museum?
Me: Um... no. Probably just the same stuff as always.
Me: But invisibility isn't that interesting to me. If I could have any magical power, it would be the ability to instantly transport myself to anywhere in the world.
Marsha: Cool! Where would you go?
Me: (excessively excited) I'd transport myself home during my prep period and walk the dog!
Kids: Uuaaghh.
Me: Or visit my friends across the world. I'd go to Africa!
Bill: Or.... transport yourself in and out of a bank?
Me: ....no, not so much.
Marsha: Wouldn't it be cool if you could stop time!
Me: Oh, that's one I know all about. I used to dream about that power in college.
Andrew: Why?
Me: Well, I'd be sitting in, say, a psych test and realize that I needed to study way more before I took the test. So I'd think about how if I could stop time, I could just leave and study all I needed and then start time and take the test. Oooh, or stop time and take a nap! That way it would be like you wouldn't have to sleep at all!
Bill: Let me get this right. If you could have ANY SUPERPOWER IN THE WORLD, you'd choose powers that would let you walk your dog, sleep, and do more homework?
Me: ...........................well, when you put it that way........ I'm a loser!
Kids: (all nod sadly in agreement)


from my friend Kate:
pet peeve #1: when you're sitting somewhere, waiting for that place to be unlocked, and more and more people come and unsuccessfully try the doors and then sit down and wait with you, and yet every new person to arrive also must try all the doors and determine for himself that it is, indeed, still locked. No, asshole, we're all sitting outside the forum for the hell of it. But yeah, sure, maybe it'll be like the fucking sword in the stone and it'll magically open for alone and you can be fucking king arthur of the forum.

Only it's a bunch of 12 year olds, and instead of just rattling the doorknob, they rattle, then pound, then throw themselves bodily at the door, and when I finally open it, they yell at me for making them wait for even 30 precious seconds. And that's my day.

5th period.

-- Ms. Backes, why did you fly into the room?
-- Um, what?
-- When you kicked Denny out of the room, remember, when you threw him outside? You flew back into the room. Was it, like, a kickback? Like a shockwave?
-- ....Are you finished with your worksheet?
-- You must have thrown him really hard, huh??

6th period.

[the class and I get into a fight about whether or not my drawing of a cow does, in fact, look like a cow]

-- Don't worry, Ms. Backes. I used to draw like that too --- in kindergarten!!

7th period.

-- Ms. Backes, can we move our desks by our friends during worktime today?
-- How do you know we're going to have worktime today?
-- Well... you can just... see it... in a teacher.....!

-- Ms. Backes, someone left their ear here! [holding up a bloody plastic ear]
-- Someone left their.... what?? Gross!

-- You can totally tell if a person smokes, just by how they look!
-- Do I smoke?
-- Do I smoke?
-- What about me, do I smoke?
-- You don't smoke, you raise pigs!


7th period.

-- In my classroom, everyone has the right to be safe.
-- Question. Do I have the right to punch him in the face?
-- No.
-- Even if he stole my pencil??

-- Do you think there are certain rights that every human on the planet should have? Joey?
-- Freedom of speech!
-- Summer?
-- Education!
-- Good, Dakota?
-- Um, life? The right to be alive.
-- Good! Arlene?
-- Love whoever you want. Everyone should get that.
-- Good. Jose?
-- The right.... to have a house. And food. And... respect.
-- Very good. Yes, Walt?
-- Yeah, when does this class get over?

6th period.

Tony: I can't believe you said the right to date or marry who you want is the most important! I mean, come on, people! You could be living on the streets!

2nd period.

Melody: (with a "Sponge Bob" blanket around her legs like a long skirt) Look, Ms. Backes! I'm acclimating to the cold climate -- like an Indian!

Jenna: These pencils are sharp! Let's play darts! Ms. Backes, darts!
Me: Jenna, I am not your dartboard.

Every day I have to have an essay question ready for 5th period, so when they start being disrespectful or fighting with one another, I can stop the class discussion and make them write essays instead. Isn't that sad?

Instead of letting myself get down, though, I just try to imagine my current students sitting in some of my college classes, and how the professors would have dealt with them. I particularly like to juxtapose my 7th graders into Steve Andrews' seminar about nature/writing/women, and watch what happens when the kids just won't sit down, or fall out of their seats, or ask 20 times "what are we doing today?" or "when does this class get over?" Or I like to think of Craft of Fiction, if it was full of these jerry-springer-inspired dramatics. I imagine students jumping across the table to attack one another for saying mean things about a story, or yelling, "Mr. Baechtel, can I punch him?? But he said my dialogue was forced!"

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