That was my pre-emptive rebuke to my students as they departed my classroom each period on Valentines Day. I would say it as I opened the door when the bell rang, using a tone of voice I intended to be ‘firm’ but after ninety-minutes with each group, my tenor may have leaned more toward exasperated crankiness.
“Hey, you kids! Get off of my lawn…and don’t multiply!”
Having Valentines Day on a Friday was both blessing and curse. Our students are usually pretty wired on Friday anyway, but with all the exchanging of gifts and the anticipatory lust wafting loudly and graphically through five-of-every-six conversations, It made for even shorter attention spans and less productivity than usual.
And the gifts.
I saw more large stuffed animals being lugged by/into/out of my classroom than a typical midway carnie . That might not be so surprising, but in a large, inner city high school where many of the students come from challenging circumstances, it is something else. (Zombie teddy bears, anyone? From Recycle-a-Bear Workshop, perhaps?)
The self-avowed gangbanger with an AK-47 tattoo and colorful profanity slathered up-and-down his arm lugging around a stuffed St. Bernard roughly half his height is not something you see every day. Just to be clear, he was the recipient of said polyester pooch, though my understanding was he gave as good as he got in the stuffed animal department. That basic scenario was repeated an astounding number of times throughout the day.
Adding to the charged atmosphere was the fact that it was a ‘dress down’ day – pay a dollar, get a sticker, and you could come in street clothes for the day. Pay a buck to not have to wear a school uniform for a day? You bet! Get a chance to dress up for a dress down? Oh, baby…
Restraint is not a hallmark of our student body. Bourbon Street probably had a more casual vibe than our hallways did on Friday, especially fifth period, post-lunchtime. With the day winding down, the sugar from the truckloads of exchanged candy and baked goods kicking teen libidos into high(er) gear, the end of the day was…boisterous.
Glad fifth period is my planning period, as I was done with most of the craziness by lunchtime. Also in the ’pro’ column for a Friday Valentine Day? On Saturday, I don’t have to deal with students who are hung-over.
“Go forth…and don’t multiply!”
My speech class didn’t seem to get it, though it was early in the day and most of them just want the hell out of my classroom anyway. My third period English class of thirty-five seniors was mostly intact, and as usual they had found much to complain about with Friday’s class offering. They seemed mostly oblivious to my exasperated directive as I flung open the door – though a few stopped and stared at me with puzzled looks, and at least two of them seemed to have a light-bulb moment with it.
My fourth period seniors, who are much more subdued and a bit more cerebral than their third period counterparts, had a much higher percentage of kids who stopped, contemplated my words, and at least registered some recognition.
“Go forth…and don’t multiply!”
The end of the day did provide me with some redemptory satisfaction, though. I was standing in the doorway of my classroom as the kids were streaming out, many yelling out to me as they passed, which was normal for a Friday. Some tell me to have a nice weekend, some respond with muttered expletives when I tell THEM to have a nice weekend. Rinse and repeat. Mostly it’s jovial stuff, but this Friday was something else.
“Mr. Lucker! I’m going out tooooooo-NIGHT!”
“Mr. Lucker! Its goin on tonight!”
“Mr. Lucker! You be wishing you were me tonight!”
That’s a fair representation of the last five minutes of the day, and as usual I could only respond with a series of smiles, head shakes and, on this day, “Go forth…and don’t multiply.”
As the crowd thinned out, one of my favorite students, a bright young woman named Sandra* walked by, told me to have a nice evening and weekend as she usually does. At the same time, two boys ran by yelling out to me that they were ‘Gonna have some fun toooo-NIGHT!’ and I responded with my plea du jour.
Sandra, stopped in the middle of the hall, looked at me with a quizzical smile, and said “Mr. Lucker, what’s that mean…’go forth and don’t multiply?”
“It’s a take on the Biblical directive from G-d to populate the earth – you know, ‘go forth and multiply.’”
She stared at me. The bulb clicked on, and she nodded as the remaining kids in the hallway whizzed by, headed for the buses.
“Mr. Lucker” she said with a knowing sigh, “Around here, that’s good advice to give.”