Friday, October 19, 2007



Nikki, better known here as Ms. Lovelace, stood in front of the class. She felt very small and alone. I would even say that she felt fear. She was the substitute teacher, and this was shop class, fourth period, 24 freshman boys. They were swarming her. All she was trying to do was take roll. They wouldn't sit down. It felt like being stuck inside a popcorn popper.

Nikki couldn't help but think they resented her. They definitely resented being in school, having to be still, following rules, trying to learn. They resented being forced to watch a video about outdoor building projects.

The video itself was pretty interesting, though it was set in the early 90's and this was 2007. A couple and a friend were building a garage. But, only Nikki and about 5 of the boys noticed. The rest of the room was locked in combat.

A group of black boys were huddled at one end of the room around a large table. The white boys were huddled in the opposite corner. They were throwing things at each other throughout class. Apparently they resented each other too.

Nikki managed to convince them to stop, by threatening to call the office. But then the group of black boys started playing cards. She went over to tell the to stop. They immediately started whining, complaining and begging. Trying to wheedle out of her the permission to play, by saying they would behave better if they were allowed to play cards, because somehow, this would distract them from raising hell in her classroom.

One of them mumbled, "Man, we aren't allowed to do anything, what ARE we allowed to do then?" Nikki replied, "You can watch the video, do work for another class, or day dream." One of the boys retorted, "I'm going to day dream about you buck naked." Nikki walked away, she was furious, embarrassed, but what was she supposed to do? She wasn't even entirely sure which one had said it.

There was another big ruckus at the table, so Nikki went back over. "Guys I'm going to have to ask you to move, move away from the table into one of these two rows." But they wouldn't do it. She started back to her desk. "If you don't all move by the time I get to the phone, I'm going to call the office."

Nikki called the office, but she wasn't entirely sure what she was going to say. Lucky for her, right at that moment, another flying object flew past her head. So she said, "Hi, I'm a sub, and the students are throwing things at each other." Nikki was assured that someone would be down promptly.

The boys all moved, tying to look innocent, for their impending doom. One of them tried the age old ploy, "Your racist." Yes, they definitely resented her, Nikki couldn't help but wonder what race had to do with it. But, then it was clear, the white boys were on one side of the room, the black boys were on the other side of the room. There was an imaginary line of war. The kid said, "It's 'cause we're black." Nikki retorted, "It's the black boys over here, and the white boys over there."

To Nikki, it was clear, both races were included, so it wasn't at all racist. But somehow, to the boy, this comment confirmed racism. He jumped up and went to make his own phone call. Nikki managed to get the phone away from him, and quickly hung it up.

It took quite awhile for one of the disciplinary faculty to arrive. Nikki kept walking to the door looking for her savior. A lady, Ms. Rouse, finally did come. She apologized for taking so long. Nikki told her that the boys were throwing stuff at each other, that they had been playing cards, that they wouldn't listen to her, that she had asked them to move, and that those five boys weren't at all involved.

Nikki almost started to cry when she said, "That one said he would dream about me buck naked, and then one of them said he was going to get me pregnant." Ms. Rouse went around and took names. She left with the boy in blue, who had been outspoken about his personal fantasies.

But, Nikki was still alone with these hormonal, young, strapping boys. They started fighting. Throwing each other across tables. Nikki had to put her body between them. She said, "Look, the period is almost over. I don't want to hear anymore out of you guys. Tomorrow I'll gladly hear it, but today we are through."

The bell rung, and they all raced out of the room, bottlenecking at the door. The room was still thick with resentment. They resented authority, they resented Nikki, they resented each other. Who knows why? Nikki trudged home with a headache, for which Nikki resented her students. All of them.

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