Regular visitors to this spot have likely heard me state that, in my life as a New Orleans high school teacher I encounter “More flavors of stupid than Baskin-Robbins has ice cream.”
The fun stated near the end of my third-period senior English class. At my classroom door was a guy from our district’s I.T. department – a welcome sight as the bulb in my interactive white board went out a week ago Tuesday, reducing the nifty technology to nothing more than a very pricey easel, festooned as it currently is, with masking-tape mounted chart paper. I opened the door, he introduced himself, and stepped over to my Promethean board, where the following conversation took place, while my getting-ready-to-depart seniors looked on…many with their typical and all-to-familiar, ‘What the _____?’ expression.
“So, can you turn on the Promethean board for me?”
“I can, but it only stays on for two seconds – just long enough to flash the ‘replace bulb’ message.”
“O.K. But its policy…I need to check it out to see if that’s really the problem.” He was looking upward at the ceiling-mounted projector, which made it very hard to miss the bright orange ‘Replace bulb’ light that has been glowing in the corner of the projector unit for a week-and-a-half. I clicked the remote, the projector turned on, then immediately shut off. He continued staring up. “Let me see” he said. I handed him the remote.
Three more times he turned it on, and it clicked right off. Click, click. Click, click. Click, click.
“Yep, it’s a bulb issue.”
“I’m sorry. I know this seems dumb, but it’s the department policy that we come out and check it before we just replace the bulb. There are only six of us doing this, and with having to make two trips each time, we are stretched really thin these days. And I’m pretty sure we are completely out of this model.”
Two trips? I stared at him silently, my hope that he at least had a bulb in his vehicle now about as bright as my Promethean projector.
“I understand they only keep about a half-dozen bulbs on hand” I noted casually, both of us still looking at the projector.
Now I know from my years in the business world you don’t want a lot of stock just sitting around collecting dust, and at $150 – $275 a pop, these bulbs aren’t cheap, but for the largest school district in the state, with projectors in virtually every classroom…
We looked at each other. The I.T. guy shrugged.
“Soooooo….any idea, guestimate of any kind on when I MIGHT get a new bulb?”
“Nah. I wouldn’t even guess.” He shrugged again. Scribbling something on his clipboard, he bid me a ‘nice day’ and headed out the door. I turned to face a group of quizzical looking seniors.
I smiled at them. “He needed to make sure it was a bulb issue.”
The bell rang, my seniors left – some shaking their heads.
Fourth period is my speech class – my last of the day. A mixed bag of mostly underclassmen, they are starting to come together as a cohesive group, and there are a couple of kids who will get up at every opportunity to speak, and are good at it. The other kids enjoy them.
I do have one knucklehead in the group; a kid who insists on texting all through class. Two phone conversations with his mom have failed to curb his phone use, and I had submitted a written referral for shenanigans the two previous days.
Late in the class period, kids were getting up and doing impromptu speeches. Mr.Texter one-upped himself; he was on his phone, carrying on a conversation with someone. As usual, names are pseudonyms.
“Daniel. Please get off the phone.”
“Please get out of my face.” He continued talking.
“Daniel. Please get off the phone.”
“I told you! Get out of my face!”
The rest of the class is watching, expecting me to go off on the kid. Instead, I walk back to his table, sit down directly in front of him. He continues talking. I fold my hands, check the clock. Then I rap my knuckles on the desk next to him. knockknockknock “Hello? Anybody home?” I intone sweetly. “Hello?” No response.
“I told you, please get out of my face so I can finish my call.”
“Can I please say hello to whomever it is you’re talking to?” Daniel sighs, rolls his eyes. Putting the phone on speaker, he holds it in front of me, saying “Hold on, Mia, my teacher wants to talk to you.” While rolling his eyes. The rest of the class is completely quiet – no small feat.
“Hi, Mia?” I ask sweetly. “Did you know that Daniel is getting into a whooooolllle lot of trouble talking to you, because he is in the middle of class?” I hear female giggling from the phone.
“Can you just leave me alone now?”
I nod, get up quietly, walk to the front of the room. A girl in the class decides she has had enough. “Will you get off that f****** phone! This is school!”
“Will you get out of my face?” Daniel is addressing the young woman, which prompts a number of other classmates to begin yelling at him. “Get off the phone!” “Man, you are an ignorant child!” “Get off the phone so we can hear people talking!” And more, um choice comments.
Daniel seems taken slightly aback. “Man! Why are you all bucking me? This is a private call! Everybody get out of my face!”
(Memo to Daniel: the privacy issue went out the window a while ago.)
I push the call button to the office and ask for a dean or disciplinarian to come to my room. Then I tell the class to calm down, and not to engage Daniel. To their credit, they tone it down, but between the classmates yelling at him to get off the phone, and the others, in disbelief, saying “Man I can’t believe this!” and “I have never heard of anything like this” It’s pretty obvious that Daniel has lost any support he might have had at one time. Undeterred, he tells Mia, “The whole class is bucking at me! They just need to go one with their thing and let me finish my call!”
Ms. R, one of our disciplinarians arrives at my door. I open it, greet her warmly, adding cheerfully, “It’ll be just a minute, Ms. R. he has to finish his call.”
Yes, he is still talking to Mia. Ms. R, hands on hips, eyebrows cocked precipitously, “Daniel, get off of that phone and get out here!” She looks at me, I can only shake my head. “Unbelievable” is all she can muster as Daniel adds the coup-de-gras to the escapade: “Well, I gotta go. Looks like they’re ‘sending me somewhere.” Punctuated, of course, with another eye roll.
He joins Ms. R in the hallway for, what I found out later from Ms. R, was an interesting walk to discipline. Seems Daniel was a bit put out that we ‘interrupted’ his phone call.
As they left and I closed the door, the class erupted in a release of tension. I told them to settle down, and again to their credit, they quickly did. I turned to Michael, who had been standing at the classroom podium this whole time and told him he could start his impromptu speech whenever he was ready. “O.K., Mr. Lucker” he said with a nervous laugh, shaking his head and smiling. The last ten minutes of class went very smoothly, and they were off to lunch, shaking their heads, muttering ‘wow’ and telling me to have a nice afternoon.
Both my third period seniors and my fourth period speech kids all had stories to tell today. I just hope my second period seniors don’t catch wind of it and start to feel left out.