Humiliation comes in all forms and sizes. I didn’t think there could be a worst humiliation than being ousted by the literary community that decided short fiction stories were not only not worth paying the writer even a nominal fee of twenty-five dollars, publishing was a privilege that meant this nominal fee of seeing your work in print should be paid by the author, but I was wrong. You could become a school teacher.
Don’t waste your breath on scandalized repertoire and increased heart rate, leading to the dangers of high blood pressure and stroke. My wife has already tried this, although she stopped short of choking off a major artery after due consideration that our expense account had dictated that all luxuries, including our health insurance policy, was suspended from our list of absolute necessities two years ago. Since poor health was taken off our list of affordable expenditures, she has at least decided to listen to my side of the story.
As I said, and I will repeat this emphatically, one of the worst humiliations is becoming a school teacher. There wasn’t much other recourse. I had already begun receiving hate mail in my e-box after I had informed my kids we could no longer afford their i-phones, and had to creep down the hallway to my at-home office each evening, glancing around every corner, and shaking with dread anticipation at each doorway, expecting at any moment the lynch mob would come out to the tune of “hang ‘im high.” They had, after all, already burned an effigy in the yard. It was either go back to teaching or face capital punishment.
It had been quite a few years since I’d last signed up for a contract with the educational field. My last quest for encouraging enlightenment in budding minds was a position with an overcrowded high school, teaching journalism to properly pimpled teenagers whose main objective was avenging themselves of jocks and future play bunnies by writing secret sauce stories worthy of National Enquirer. A crisis evolved when the school became so over-crowded, it was decided money could be trimmed from the budget by using a couple of empty classrooms in the State University Extension service for the journalism students, instead of building a larger high school.
The journalism students believed this was a specific conspiracy hatched by the jocks and the sports enthusiasts to eliminate the power of the press and proceeded to become as damaging a byproduct of educational overflow as possible. When they decided to write up an allegation that the assistant principle, a plump little woman in her fifties, was giving blow jobs to the Student Body President, it became my dutiful place to step in and invoke a little censorship.
One does not censor a group of enthusiastic future intellectuals without dire consequences. They immediately invoked their liberties for freedom of press, which I immediately countered with my intrepid desires not to be liberally sued for slander. Relying on the principle of writing privileges, I pointed out how unique and special they were to be taking their classes at a University outlet instead of the mundane walls of a high school.
They were not at all impressed. It seems that the hallowed participants of higher education were not pleased to accept high schools students as their peers and colleagues. The high school crowd were snubbed in the hallways. They were barricaded from the coffee station. My students retaliated by raiding the honor system supply of candy bars and soda and even taking the coffee can standing by for donations. This dishonorable action did cause the high school to re-incorporate the journalism students by placing the special education reading classes in the band room during the three hours a day when it wasn’t in use, so the journalism students would have a place to type out their profanities.
Teachers are enormously unpopular. They always were. They always will be. If there are budget cuts to be made, the educational department is the first economic district to undergo scrutiny. If a child becomes a behavioral problem in school, the babysitting skills of the teacher are immediately blamed. However, if the child is successful, than the parents get all the credit. Schools are the place where juvenile delinquency and good parenting get together and decide on the qualifications of the teacher based on the ability to prevent the next Colorado massacre, and not on the credentials for delivering intelligent thought into the minds of children.
However, the school board felt that I should have at least been personable; that is, charming enough to convince an eighty year old college admissions counselor who was still sporting her “I like Ike” button, that just because my students couldn’t multiply without a calculator didn’t mean they were too mentally challenged to return the coffee can and begin to make amends by paying for their sugary treats. They felt I had behaved abominably; and perhaps I had. I was shaken to the bone with the suspicion that this was the same admissions counselor who had discovered I had nearly failed at fractions when I was in college, and might pull my records to revoke my Bachelor of Arts degree. I wasn’t going to risk it. When she suggested my group of kids might all be morons, I quietly and humbly agreed. At the end of my contract, I was quietly and not quite so humbly relieved of duties as a high school journalism teacher.
Ten years later, and I once again braved the academy of shaping young minds for future prosperity. The only position open was for a third grade glass. While it seemed a step down from my illustrious career of familiarizing myself with water cooler bubbles as I waited for press assignments that usually resulted in covering the various types of removal for unwanted hair on a woman’s body, I felt after teaching high school journalism, third graders would be a snap.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Much had transpired in the field of expertise with children. It had been discovered that the very touch of an adult hand could have long lasting, traumatic effects on the mind of a child. While my own experiences had led me to believe that a nine-year-old’s mind wants nothing more than popcorn and fourteen hours a day playing video games, the new orientation counselor assured me this wasn’t so. Beneath those cherubic faces was unwashed fruit waiting lecherously for a chance to explore inappropriate relationships. Not only were they as lusty as young stallions on Viagra, they were sirens out to wreck good men. Any contact at all and you were forever consumed with insatiable desires.
This astonished and troubled me. I began to wonder about the numerous transgressions I must have made against my own children. What was wrong with me? Why had I held them? Why had I jiggled them on my knee? They were ruined. They would never have a normal sex life. Now I fully understood why my daughter dyed her hair pink. She was traumatized by the kiss I gave her on the forehead last year. How could I have been such a fool?
Fortunately, years of habit made it easy for me to keep my hands in my pockets and slouch indifferently in front of my pupils. Despite their designer clothing, Paris salon hairdo’s and ten pounds of pancake makeup, the young girls did not crack my child resistant armor. As unusual as it might sound, I still found Angelina Jolie more stimulating than Hannah Montana. Several weeks went by without any sort of incident. Then a student ran into me in the hallway, nearly knocking me down. The bell had rung. Classes were in session. The kid pushed me aside and tried to keep running, so I grabbed his arm and promptly marched him to the principal’s office.
“You touched him,” gasped the secretary behind the desk with horror.
“I’m delivering him to your mercy,” I answered. “He was running in the hall, no pass, while classes were in session.”
“And who is attending your classroom while you’re dragging around this student?”
“The kids are in art class right now. I’m on break.”
I’m sure I heard her sneer as she opened the door to the principal’s office, “It must be nice to be a teacher. Three months of vacation, frequent breaks. More holidays than the President.”
More liability than a doctor or a fifteen year old car with faulty brakes skating through a busy intersection. The principal looked grim. “We’ll have to hold a conference. You grabbed a student.”
“I grabbed his arm.”
“Did you leave bruises? The parents might file assault charges, you know.”
“I didn’t make him take off his shirt.”
“We probably should. We’ll have to verify you left no marks. What about lower body contact?”
“Still, I think it would be best if we put you on three day suspension until the investigation is over. It’s just a safety protocol, understand.”
Of course I understood. These kids were on the path to true guidance. They would not grow up with metal balls pierced into their tongues or pink hair. They would not wear shirts four sizes too big, stuffed inside a pair of pants hanging around their knees.
Once my suspension was over, I strove more diligently to be as unconcerned a teacher as possible. Kids running through the halls? Not our job to stop them. We have security guards for that. One of the little ones takes a fall… too bad. Better not try to catch her. You might get faced with child molestation charges. Best to let the school nurse take care of whatever damages occur. A kid throws a tantrum? Duck and roll, alert the school counselor and call the police as soon as possible. These kids knew the law.
I wasn’t really too surprised to read in the newspapers that a nine-year-old was pepper-sprayed by the police, and an eleven year old in Canada tasered. After all, what responsible, reasonable teacher would risk trauma to the next Messiah? The kids were here to guide us out of our dark, heathen ways. As teachers, we had no clue as to which children were receiving true enlightenment and which were plotting the downfall of mankind. Only the police knew the demons from the angels. Only the police had the expertise for handling high risk of contact situations.
I was surprised, however, to learn that baby squirrels were an endangerment to tender age child development. The squirrel in question, was apparently behaving erratically. In my professional opinion, baby squirrels often do behave erratically after falling or straying too far from their nests, but my professional opinion forgot to take in a terrifying possibility. That baby squirrel could have rabies and affect the entire community of educational duty overnight. That baby squirrel obviously needed the assistance of a police officer to deal with it. The baby squirrel needed to be pepper sprayed.
I saw the video clip, but it still seems to me the screams of horror and shouts of “please stop”, were not aimed at a rabid, dangerous, attack mode baby squirrel, but at the six foot tall policeman with a can of pepper spray. I feel sorry for the teacher who will have to lecture her class; probably for the next six weeks; on how life threatening that vicious animal really was and how the police officer had laid his life on the line to protect them. When I arrived at work the following Monday morning, a notice had been placed on the school bulletin board. A field trip for the combined third and fourth grade classes to a National Park trail had been canceled. It had been determined there was too great of a risk that rabid animals were lurking in the trees.
I told my wife I was not renewing my teacher’s contract this year. She gave that unsurprised, “hmm,” which meant, “this is only the fourth job you’ve had in nine years”, so I carried on bravely. “I’ve found a job with a lower risk factor. I’m hiring on to become a security guard at Hooters.”
“Sergio, you’re five foot eight and weigh one hundred forty five pounds. How could you possibly think that being a bouncer at Hooters carries less risk than teaching elementary school age children?”
“Security guard,” I amended. “The powers and wonders of modern technology. They’re going to let me carry a taser.” A delicious thrill went up my spine. I was done with safeguarding tomorrow’s treasures. I would wallow in the bath of debauchery and strong wine, ex-jocks, cheerleaders and aspiring journalists, who having survived the age of twenty-one, were too soiled and corrupted to be considered for salvation. I would be given a taser, and I couldn’t wait to use it.