It is my great pleasure to work as a substitute teacher. The pay is decent, the hours are flexible, and I really don’t have to do all that much. On top of that, I have a front row seat to the Greatest Show on Earth, which is the crashing and burning of America’s youth. For reasons unexplained, I work mostly in high schools, but this past week, necessity forced me to accept a job at an elementary school. Once I got there and got settled in, I asked myself, “What took me so long?” Elementary schools are great. The kids are still scared of authority, so they don’t get too mouthy, and they still don’t know most of the good cuss words. Also, in fourth grade and under, they’re still too young to join gangs. Fifth grade though… you’re done, son.
If there’s a downside to working in an elementary school, it’s that your one class is with you all day. This means you won’t get any real breaks until the afternoon, when lunch and recess roll around. So a few hours after my 9:30 Big Red (straight from San Antonio!), I really had to use the bathroom. I told the kids that I had to run to the water fountain — I didn’t say pee because who knows whether Timmy or Tammy will go to the office, hold up their dolly and say “He touched me here, here AND here.” — and ducked out. On my way I passed by this little boy washing his hands. He had a haircut his mom had given him and gigantic, coke-bottle glasses that allowed him to see into the future. He looked at me as I passed by with a crooked smile on his face and asked, “Hi. What’s your name?” It really caught me off guard. I like kids, and would have stopped to talk, but that Big Red was really sitting heavy on me and it just wasn’t in the cards. “James,” I muttered as I passed by.
This is where the story gets awesome (disturbing?). The kid FOLLOWS me into the bathroom. And not just follows me, I thought he was going to trip over my feet. I walked into a stall and closed the door behind me. Weird Kid stands in front of the stall and continues the conversation. The following is as close an approximation as I can remember. He was mumbling a little bit.
Me: Um… yes.
Kid: Guess what. Me and my friend, we were playing, and we huffed some perfume.
Me: You huffed perfume?
Kid: Yeah. We were playing.
Me: The hell?
The kid didn’t stick around to talk more. His teacher came in and took him back to class. I have a feeling Johnny was a repeat offender. Anyway, this is one of those things that makes working that much more interesting. Case closed, right? WRONG. Recess rolls around, and I was standing outside watching the kids play soccer, which the kids play on this raised concrete platform, and the ball gets kicked over the railing — wait for it — right to Johnny, who was jumping around in his red sweats with his jacket tied around his waist doing gymnastics or something. Of course all the soccer players start yelling for Johnny to throw them the ball back. This is Johnny’s time to shine. He drops his lunchbox and picks up the ball. His smile is now so crooked it’s sitting SIDEWAYS on his face. Here’s an illustration to better show what happened. Pictured are Johnny, myself and the soccer ball.
Johnny gets the ball. He tosses it up for a monster dropkick, but…
…Johnny’s thick tree trunk legs can’t swing high enough to actually kick the ball upwards so what happens is BALLSIDEWAYSWTF!!1! The ball comes right at me. I scream like a girl and dive out of the way. Johnny doesn’t seem to notice. He picks his lunchbox back up and skips off screaming “Rraaaaarrrhhhh!!!”, stomping his feet and swinging his arms like some epileptic Tyrannosaurus Rex. I picked myself up and ran back to the classroom. I heard kids laughing at me. I heard teachers laughing at me. The rest of the day was pretty much down hill. I was emasculated in front of half the school, and they had just lost all respect for me. I’m 25 now, and am starting to feel the divide between me and the kids I teach. I never knew things would get this bad. Anyway, I came back the next day and heard the news. Johnny had a weak heart, and the previous days’ exertion wore him out so bad they had to put him in the hospital. Whenever any of the kids gave me lip, I told them I put him there, just for making me mad. Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade! A few of the kids started crying, but it also earned me the title “Baller for Life” from some of those gang kids I mentioned earlier, so I did a small victory lap around the classroom. As for Johnny, we’re all hoping he’s gonna pull through.