Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Breakfast Lesson

My #Write30 topic of the day is to list my 3 pet peeves. There are many, but here are the first three I can think of: people who smack their gum, the tearing out of spiral paper, and people who don't follow rules and create more work for me.

But I'm feeling kind of sassy, and I'm going to break the rules and not write about today's topic. And it DOES actually create more work for me because all the way to work this morning, I thought about all the ways people piss me off and all the ways I plot my revenge.

See, each Wednesday, I roll into school for 45 minutes of duty time. Some stations are easy; some are hard. But not many of them try my patience as much as supervising the breakfast tables, and that's where I've been the last 5 weeks. Kids are messy. They don't clean up well after themselves. And they are desperate to stick together, so the thought of having to leave one another for the 7.2 minutes it takes to eat your bacon biscuit and chocolate milk seems sort of like this:

Kids are dramatic.

We also only open up 2.5 tables for breakfast so that messes are more confined and easier to monitor. But because of the pack mentality and the general slowness/obstinacy of junior high kids in general, we get kids nursing their carton of apple juice as if it's the last drop of water on Earth.

They're also going to try to sit wherever they want because this is what kids do. If I taped a $50 bill to the table and Sharpie-markered a personal invitation to sit down in that spot, they'd be all, "Yeah. No thanks" and move on to whatever spot an adult asked them not to sit in.

So, needless to say, cafeteria duty was topping the list of pet peeves this fine morning.

And then, 8:20 happened.

This would be about the time that one of my kids sat down with his older brother and friends who are normally quite the handful. I've worried about my student who's always somewhere between a hug and a strangle for me anyway. He wants to be on the right path, but he has these boys in his ear always, setting some not-so-great examples for him.

So he plops down in the big middle of the table, knowing the rule that I fill up one side of the table and then the other side, not sitting all willy-nilly, leaving tiny holes too intimidating to join.

So I asked him to move.

So he gave me the excuse that an administrator said it was okay.

So I told him I didn't care. These tables are my job on Wednesday, and this was not her decision.

So they wanted to call me out and argue that because she was my boss, my opinion did not matter.

So I weighed the situation. I could dig in and prove a point and possibly make my morning worse. Or I could let it go, pick a different battle, and get out with my soul still slightly unscathed.

I looked at these 8th graders sneer and remind me again that I wasn't "really in charge" and that they'd do as they pleased. And in that instant, I gave up. I decided that I didn't care. That I wouldn't teach them any lesson over a bacon biscuit because they don't care either. I know it and they know that I know it. I took a deep breath and readied myself to walk away.

And that's when my kid stood up. He picked up his plate and walked to the other side where I had asked him to go. And as he did, he told his brother and his friends, "Don't argue with my teacher. I'm going Ms. Naz."

I eked out a "thank you" and a smile, but I felt terrible as I heard them start in on him for being a "school boy", telling him he didn't have to do what I said, encouraging him to go back. To "show" me.

And that's when my kid stood up again -- for me and for him. "That's my favorite teacher. I'm not arguing with her and neither are you."

I didn't know what to do. I wanted to cry. I wanted to yell, "SUCK ON THAT, YOU LITTLE BULLIES!" I wanted to hug him until his guts collapsed and his eyes popped out. But I didn't because his street cred was hanging on by a thread at this point and any of that would've ruined him.

So instead, later in the day, I saw him walking down the hall. I called him over and told him that I appreciated what he had done. How he had followed the rules when it would've been easier not to. How he stood up for me by showing me respect. But most importantly, I told him, "You stood up for yourself when everyone tried to make you feel wrong for trying to do right. For trying to be good. And you are good."

And here is where my voice cracked and the tears welled -- "THAT is why teachers teach. To see you stand up for yourself and know you're worth the effort it takes to fight the crowd." And there is where a few of those tears leaked out. And there is where I didn't care. Not one bit. Not ever. Not at all.

And that's when he said, "Oh, Ms. Naz," and hugged me so hard, I thought my own guts would collapse and my eyes would pop out. And there's when he moved all the way to hug... just as far away from a strangle as one can possibly get.

Did I teach any big lessons over bacon and biscuits this morning? Nope. I sure didn't.

Because someone else did it better than I ever could.

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