Meanwhile, back at the ranch

A day off from the classroom with a yucky cold has allowed me some reflective keyboard time as I review my handy-dandy pocket notebook for fascinating blog tidbits from the past week or so. In no particular order of insanity, here are just a few snapshots of life in one of the many New Orleans high schools I frequent as a do-it-all, teaching sub.

A classroom I was subbing in last week was located at the end of the hall in a cavernous, echo-inducing basement. As they could not locate a key to the room (a commonplace issue for subs, due in part to an odd district key policy – worth its own post someday) I was simply waiting outside in the hall with a couple of kids. As we were chatting, the bell rang, and students began scampering to and fro, ushered by a woman screaming loudly at them from around the corner,down a different hallway.

“All you heathens, get out this hall! Clear this hall, you heathens! Get to where you need to be, you heathen children”!

I recognized the voice of that of a teacher I had met on previous visits to the school, but I certainly wouldn’t say I really know her. As I looked down the hallway, I saw this tall, middle-aged, African-American woman walking toward me, her right hand held high in the air, swinging a long lanyard with a set of keys on the end of it above her head in wide swoops, as she continued to yell at the ‘heathen’ students she was trying to herd to class. “Get to where you need to be…heathens”!

Students were ducking into classrooms as the helicopter-blade effect gave this inner city high school the look of an evacuating Saigon, circa 1975.

Oddest of all was the reaction of others in the hallway – or, more accurately, the lack of reaction – from students and other staff in the hall. Nobody seemed alarmed by this woman screaming, or her lanyard lasso twirling, or…her six (SIX) uses of the quite colorful label ‘heathen’. All indicating to me that this was S.O.P…OMG!

Once they got the room open, I taught the free enterprise material I was supposed to. Casting out demons is not part of my job description. Just another day in the hall, y’all.

I had my favorite recurring conversation with a high school kid twice in the past week – different kids, different schools. Frequently, a student will object to my prodding them to work, or giving them a homework assignment from the regular teacher, or they just think I’m being generally unreasonable about something or another. The conversation goes something like this:

“Mr. Lucker – you be trippin’”!
“Ohhhhh no – YOU be trippin’”!
“What? Man, you be trippin’”!
“Na. You be trippin thinking that I’m trippin’”. This is followed by a few seconds of silence, and usually a shaking of the students head. “Mannnnnn, Mr. Lucker – you be trippin, bad”.
“Not me, man! YOU be trippin’ thinking I’m trippin’”!

All the while, I’m hearing a rumble somewhere in the distance: I am certain it is Mrs. Moore, my fifth grade English teacher, rolling over in her grave.

And finally, this note from the fashion front.

I have a sky-blue shirt that I used to wear to school quite regularly, until one day I was having a bad day with students, and a colleague said to me “When I first saw you, I thought you were a cop – until I saw your Mr. Potato Head tie”. I wore the shirt a few more times, didn’t have such great days wearing it, left it in the closet.

Last week, I’m subbing in a class that is scheduled to have a New Orleans firefighter in to discuss careers as an EMT. The guy shows up, introduces himself, then, unprompted, dives right into a lengthy disclaimer: “People see me come to their school and say to me and say ‘whoa, I don’t like the police’ when I come to their class. I am a New Orleans firefighter. I am not with the police; I am a firefighter. We both wear the blue shirts. We all have patches on our shoulder. We made ours bigger and the word ‘FIRE’ is bigger. The police have stripes down the legs of their pants. We don’t have stripes. They have black belts with a radio, handcuffs and bullets on them. I have a small, black belt, and all that I have on it is a radio and a Blackberry,” producing the Blackberry as proof. There was a few seconds of silence, and then the guy said, “O.K. – now, who here has ever considered a career as a firefighter”?

At least the Mr. Potato Head tie goes well with a couple of other shirts I have.

And the beat goes on.

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