Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe, to-may-toe…kumquat?

One of the things about my year as a New Orleans high school sub is the fact that, almost universally, kids doing something wrong not only don’t deny most of their misdeeds, but they actually try to justify them.

This one really took the cake.

Today was day two of a three-day gig teaching American history. It’s a high school I really like, having been there multiple times, kids are pretty good for the most part, administration and staff very helpful and responsive.

A kid in one class who was messing around and had to be yanked out of class yesterday for a chat with the disciplinarian was at it again today, only he decided to up the ante, and the favor was returned to Mr. Class Clown Marvin (not, of course, his real name) spent yesterday goofing off, throwing out inane comments which I mostly ignored, and generally being annoying – until he and a female student walked out of class after I had refused them permission to go to the bathroom. Office was notified of said departures, disciplinarian came, had a chat with both, returned them to class, no more issues were had.

Today was…something else.

This kid is tall and lanky – at least six-three or four – and doesn’t really fit well into the chair/desk combos the school has, so he stretches his legs out into the aisle. No big deal to me, but he makes a big production out of taking up as much space as he can, hands folded behind his head, as he reclines and makes himself at home.

Today, Marvin started in on the bathroom shtick again, I told him ‘no’ again. He decided to disregard my wishes, and walked out – again.

I let him go without saying anything, figuring I would speak with him when he came back, as the door was locked, and I would have to open it for him. A few minutes later, class still watching the assigned movie and working on their study guides, Marvin comes back to class, and I meet him at the door.

I have the door opened just enough so I am standing between the doorjamb on my left, with my right arm behind the door, hand on the doorknob. The only way into the classroom is over, under or through me. I asked Marvin where he had been

“I was in the restroom, man”.

“Why”? (This particular line of questioning usually drives ‘em nuts)

“Why? What you mean why?! Why does somebody usually go to the restroom”?!

“But you didn’t have permission,” I said evenly, “ I told you not to go right now”.

“So what? Man, you’re just a substitute”! He was looking at me like I was crazy for even suggesting he listen to me. “Man, let me go sit down”.

“Uh-uh. Stay here or a moment. So Marvin, why do you think you can just walk out of here anytime you feel like it”? I keep my tone very matter-of-fact for these interactions.

“Man, I need to go when I need to go…and you’re just a sub”! With that he just walked on into the room, brushing me aside and knocking my hand off the doorknob.

He sat down, stretching his lanky frame across another chair, reclining with his hands behind his head, as I simply reached around to the other side of the door and hit the call button to the office. They asked what I needed, and I said “I need some assistance with a kid”.

“Okay” came the response, which caused Marvin to laugh and say, “They aint gonna send nobody! You’re just a sub-sti-TUTE”!

I smiled, shrugged – said nothing. Within twenty seconds there is a knock at the door – one of the schools security guards. He looks at me, and I point at the Marvin. “This young man left, then when he came back and I was trying to talk to him, he pushed passed me and went and sat down”. Security guard points at Marvin, says “Come here”! Over his shoulder I can see the vice principal headed this way.

Marvin’s response? An incredulous “Man, he’s just a substitute”! which gets him another, more menacing, “Come here”! from security.

As Marvin walks through the door, he starts pleading his case, arms outstretched, to the security guard; “But he is just a sub-sti-TUTE”! The security guard points down the hall toward the office. The two of them pass the assistant principal, who steps up to the doorway to speak to me. Once more, from down the hall I hear Marvin’s voice again, fading into the distance; “But he is just a substitute”!!!

The A.P. asks me what happened, and I give him the story. Meanwhile, the movie is still playing, but I don’t think anybody is watching it. At least they have stopped talking. Mostly. The A.P. nods and says ‘thanks’, I turn back toward the room and about half of the fifteen people there are looking at me.

“How’s the note taking on the study guide going”? Those looking at me have wide eyes, and seem to be waiting for something – probably a big blow-up by me. I lean against the teachers desk and return to watching the movie. One kid chirps, “Mr. Lucker – did you rat him out”? “No”, I shake my head. “I just told the principal what happened. No big deal. Its done”.

“Ooooh…Mr. Lucker! You wrong for that”! (If I had a quarter for every time some kid told me that this year, I’d stop buying lottery tickets).

“Hmmm. I don’t think so. He was wrong for walking out, then pushing his way back in”. I returned my attention to the movie, the students mostly did likewise. My lack of any vitriol is a puzzlement to most of the kids I deal with, this group being no exception.

Class continued without incident, the bell rang, they left.

Later on I encountered the A.P. again, who told me that Marvin’s mom was on her way, and that I wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore this trip. He also said that Marvin really didn’t dispute my version of events. We both shook our heads in shared disbelief.

For those of you keeping score at home, that was five “He’s just a substitute” interjections in just under forty-seven seconds. A new personal and Olympic record.

Oh – as for Marvin…he is just sus-PEN-ded.

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