On school days, lunchtime usually finds me in my third floor office, eating while I read a book or browse through my favorite blogs. This past week, however, I had lunch duty and was stationed on the chaotic and challenging second floor, the domain of Freshmen and Sophomores. Here are the highlights of my week on the lunchtime beat:Monday: It’s all Part of my Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy
I sit in my office, eating my lunch and misting up while looking at the Mother’s Day additions to Post Secret
. The phone rings. “Oral Queen!” my coplike assistant principal barks out of the receiver, “You have lunch duty
! Get down there!”
I arrive on the second floor, lunch half over. I have barely acclimated to the bright lights and chaotic soundscape when a wild-haired freshman boy comes up and thrusts a shitty electric guitar into my hand. “Ms. Queen! Play us one of your songs!” I strap on the guitar (which is plugged into a gnarly little amp), he hands me a pick, and I begin to play for an audience of three guitar-obsessed boys. Conscious of my rep as the rock and roll teacher, I attempt to play something relatively impressive. I keep my eyes on the strings both to avoid eye contact with my small audience and to keep from fucking up. I play for maybe five minutes, the bell rings, and when I look up there’s a crowd of thirty or so students, all eyes on me. Part of me is mortified. Part of me is totally psyched. Nothing like an audience of enthusiastic, easily impressed teenagers to make you feel like a star.Tuesday: I Am Not Alone
Most days, I brush my teeth alone, either in the one-person bathroom near my office or in the first floor girls’ bathroom (with students filing past). Today at the end of lunch, I go to brush my teeth in the second-floor bathroom and find a group of three freshman girls there with toothbrushes in hand. I hold up my brush and smile, and they invite me to join in their oral hygiene party. Ah, the camaraderie. As I’m tapping the water out of my brush one of the girls says “We brush here every day at the end of lunch, Ms. Queen. Feel free to join us any time!” Oh, girls, you bring a song to my heart, a tear of happiness to my eye, and a twinkle of minty freshness to my teeth.Wednesday: To Sit, Perchance to Read
There is a free all-school barbeque to celebrate the impending end of the school year. 90% of the student body is out on the lawn scarfing down the charred delicacies. I sit on a chair, hardly anyone to monitor, and read the last few chapters of Bee Season
, a readable but ultimately fairly mediocre novel. Thursday: Walmarted!
One of my students from British Lit comes by and cheerfully hands me a baggie with a small puffed pastry inside. “You can have my last cream puff,” she says. I politely take it, as I take all student offerings of food. But then I have to decide whether to actually eat it or throw it away. In a moment of whimsy, I pop the bite-sized cream puff into my mouth. It is amazing, light and buttery, sweet but not too sweet. I only wish I had another. For some reason I assume it’s homemade, and I marvel that someone in her household had the patience to make a batch of the tiny pastries. When I see the student in class I say “Thanks for the cream puff – it was delicious. Did you make those?” “No,” she smiles, “They’re from Walmart.” I feel disillusioned, a little dirty.Friday: Sensai’s Got My Back
On Friday comes my first chance to actually intervene in a hallway altercation. I see a broad-shouldered sophomore basketball player smacking my wild-haired freshman guitar player. I step to basketball boy and give him a dressing down. “But he kissed me!” he protests. I explain that a smackdown is not an appropriate response to a kiss, however unwanted. I learn that the freshman in question has repeatedly given this sophomore boy kisses without his consent. My advice: ignore it and see if he gets bored and quits. Or, talk to our local cop, the Vice Principal. “That’s sexual harassment,” I tell him. I’m about to note that the Vice P. takes sexual harassment very seriously when the Japanese teacher, a diminutive, well dressed Asian woman, comes flying up and begins pounding vigorously on the sophomore basketball player. “You don’t sexually harass Ms. Queen!” she shouts, “Shame on you!”
It takes me a moment to figure out what’s going on. “No, Sensai, no! He
didn’t sexually harass me
. I was saying that someone sexually harassed him
.” Sensai halts the pummeling and sheepishly begins to apologize to basketball boy. “I’m sorry! I misunderstood. I thought you were disrespectful of Ms. Queen.” While I should be concerned that my colleague has raised her hand to a student, I am actually kind of stoked. It’s good to know that I’ve got Sensai in my corner when shit starts to go down.