Thursday, 19 March 2009

Self Inflicted

"Tee-cha," hisses Aysha as I am about to enter the classroom, "we wait here, okay?"

I stare in confusion at the three girls huddled together outside the door. "Why? It's time for class--"

Melis and Gamze shake their heads. "Inside so bad smell," whispers Gamze. She leans forward, peering through the open door at the boys in the classroom. "Dis-gusting."

I take a step into the classroom and back out immediately. All three windows are open in the classroom and a strong wind is blowing through, but that still hasn't managed to do the job. The boys won't meet my eyes, and no wonder.

Aysha taps my arm and raises her eyebrows. "You see?"

I nod. It's clear that someone has over-indulged in beans. One of the boys is a chronic offender. It's happened often enough before and he's practically cleared the room every time. You think he'd learn what to avoid eating, especially just before a class!

That afternoon, I'm going down the stairs behind a young teacher wearing three-inch heels. I can only marvel at her speed: the stairs, made of polished stone, are treacherous, and even in my sensible teaching shoes, I take them at a cautious granny pace. Even as I shake my head at her breakneck descent, she trips and goes flying. I watch in open-mouthed horror as the woman's books and CD player clatter down the stairs and she lands in a rumpled heap at the bottom. Before I can offer to help, she struggles to her feet, gathers up her books and clacks off, limping, her stockings hanging in shreds. Poor woman, but really: in heels like that she ought to know better!

Next morning in class, there is a thud followed by a scream. Ilker, a great loutish youth who practically sits on his neck and -- if I didn't stop him -- would try and sleep his way through the entire class-- is clutching his forehead, his features contorted in pain. He rocks back and forth, moaning, and for a brief moment, I panic: this kid is clearly having a stroke! But before I can reach for my phone, Ilker's features relax and his mouth, open in agony, snaps shut, lips compressed. Still wincing from pain, he uncovers his forehead and turns to his neighbor, pointing to his eyebrow and gasping out a question in Turkish.

I put down my book and move towards him. "What's wrong?"

Whimpering, Ilker points to his forehead. A couple of days ago, he had his eyebrow pierced and he's been proudly sporting one of those largish studs that sticks out on both sides. Ilker obviously isn't used to it yet; when he smacked his head down on the desk as he often does, it must have hurt like billy-o. Watching him, I am torn by conflicting reactions: Poor Ilker and Idiot.

The following Monday, Bulut sits in class, looking dazed and sullen. In the back of the classroom, a hinge on one of the chairs is in desperate need of an oiling: every time the kid sitting in it leans forward, there is a high-pitched metallic squeal that makes us all cringe. Every time it squeals, Bulut's face turns pale and he winces.

"Are you sick?" I ask him, frowning. His face is ash-colored and he looks like any minute he could fill a plastic bag.

Bulut starts to nod, then shakes his head -- and winces. Now I get it: Bulut has a hangover. It's not like it's the first time he's come to class like this either.

Really, some people just don't learn!

That evening after my very last class, I make my exhausted way upstairs to the teachers' room and stop, horrified. The door has been locked; my key is inside, along with my coat, bag, and the key to the ladies' room. At this hour, the janitors don't know who is still teaching and who has gone home, and they are all too likely to lock up before us last stragglers can collect our things. I am joined by one of my colleagues who is also without her key. There we stand with our CD players, stacks of homework, and pile of textbooks, longing for our coats and bags -- and the ladies' room key. And this is the third time this very thing has happened, to the both of us.

Sigh. Some of us never learn, do we?


Charlie said...

You made up the word yourself, Mary: you aren't a teacher, but rather a stuporvisor.

There's no excuse for you, however. How about putting the key on a chain around your neck? Something tasteful, as opposed to chain-gang chain.

Angela said...

I agree with Charlie--stick the key on a string around your neck and tell the students it's for the dungeon...

Robin said...

Oh, dear. I still think you're a lot more genteel than the bean farting boy.

I love the stupid kid with the eyebrow piercing. Your school is getting sort of dangerous.

Kim Ayres said...

Another wonderful piece of writing, Mary :)

Charles Gramlich said...

That kind of frustration upon a frustrating day is enough to drive a person to drink. If you only had a key to the liquor cabinent. ;)

adrienne said...

Weird...this is the second blog post in a row I've read dealing with flatulence...
And I suppose we are creatures of habit, aren't we?

Mary Witzl said...

Charlie -- I could put it around my neck, but if I know myself, I'd end up misplacing it soon enough. I need to use it to get in and out of my locker and it would take me very little time to just forget it. No excuses -- that is certainly true. Just my own idiocy.

Angela -- Love that idea! If only I taught at Hogwarts, I would absolutely use that line! Trust someone with a skull and crossbones logo to come up with that idea!

Robin -- True: forgetting your key isn't quite as dumb as running downstairs in high heels, and it's a lot ritzier than classroom flatulence.

The kid with the eyebrow piercing just cracks me up. He's always doing funny things.

Kim -- Aw, shucks. I just do this so that people will read about what I've been doing, then come along and say nice things to me. I'm under no illusions, but it still warms the cockles of my heart to read comments like this!

Charles -- If I'd had some tequila that night, I'd have tied one on, sure enough. And I could just about be an honorary Muslim, I tie one on so rarely.

Adrienne -- The kid who dealt it did it again this morning. Little does he know that his intestinal troubles have been immortalized on my blog.

I do wish I weren't such a creature of habit.

Anne Spollen said...

My teen boys thought the first part of your blog was absolutely hysterical.

Should be simple to write for such minds, ya know?

Mary Witzl said...

This is so true, Anne -- so true. My friend's teenage son thought the farting part was swell too. Maybe I'll just pull out everything that doesn't work in my current muddled WIP, replace it with flatulence, and have an instant success for reluctant boy readers.

Yeah, right.

Bish Denham said...

Gotta laugh! The eye-brow pierced head-banger about had me on the floor!

Keep key on person.

Martha Flynn said...

Hmm...the next time one of my YA characters does something moronic without proper motivation, I can point to this post and say, " happens!"

Mary Witzl said...

Bish -- The eyebrow stud kid is really something else. The funniest thing about it is how proud he is of his stud. He can hardly take his hands off it.

Martha -- Believe me, I've seen many more instances than this, so feel free to quote this blog whenever you like. I'm sworn to secrecy on my own kids' stuff, but I figure my students' dopey actions are fair game.

Eryl Shields said...

I have an aunt who is terribly allergic to chocolate, it gives her excruciating migraines, but about two or three times a year she just can't help eating it.

I'm not going to even hint at all the stupid things I do repeatedly even though I know I'll regret them.

Could you have a copy of the key made so you can have one on you and the other in the room just in case you misplace the one on you?

Katie Alender said...

It's amazing how we sabotage ourselves, isn't it? I hope you find a safe spot for your key!

PI said...

Children - unfortunately - have always farted but hangovers and piercings are seemingly of our day. What a shame. You must have to frequently bite your tongue not to point out the error of their ways. I'm not sure I could manage it:)

Mary Witzl said...

Eryl -- I sympathize with your aunt -- what else can she do, with a terrible affliction like an allergy to chocolate?

Believe me, that key incident is just the tip of the iceberg, though I was heartened to know that at least one of my colleagues had done the exact same thing. I've got my locker key and my staffroom key on the same chain and it's handy to keep my locker key in the staffroom. A wiser, more organized person would make another copy.

Katie -- I always think I'm going to get organized one day -- really organized. I picture myself as the sort of person who can lay her fingers on something the exact minute she wants it. They say that picturing yourself a certain way is the first step towards attainment, so maybe I'll get there eventually.

Pat -- I've got multiply pierced students and just looking at them makes me wince internally. I'm really good at hiding it, though. Now I can see one with a new piercing and even pretend to admire it. But the truth is, I don't bite my tongue anywhere near often enough.

Postman said...

Good writing, as Mr. Ayres pointed out. Not that I'm qualified to judge or anything. Jeez, and I thought I had it tough. I've heard of opportunities to go teach in the United Arab Emirates, maybe I should do that. It would appear to be more of a challenge than I thought.