Monday, April 15, 2013

Long Suffering Spouse sees red

And not just metaphorically, either, although that was true as well.

She'd taken something off her classroom wall Friday during homeroom period, intending to replace it with something else. But there was something already there: Some scurrilous graffiti had been scrawled on the wall in indelible red Sharpie.

She immediately called her students to account. "Which one of you did this?" she demanded.

Naturally, no one admitted anything.

"Why do you think it was one of us?" huffed one student. Most of the school population rotates through my wife's classroom in any given week, but, as my wife reminded the students, she is present at all times.

"Well, you're not here at recess," theorized another student.

Long Suffering Spouse considered the point about a nanosecond. "That's true," she said, and it was. Ordinarily, no one is in the classroom at lunch or recess -- and Long Suffering Spouse keeps the classroom door locked. But, when the weather is inclement, the kids spend recess in their homerooms after lunch. It's rained a lot in Chicago in recent days. If April showers bring May flowers, we can expect a riotous floral outbreak in these parts in just a couple of weeks. "So who would be here during recess?" my wife asked, answering her own question when all the kids started looking down at the floor: "Only you."

"Well, someone could have come in here during recess."

"And then you would have all seen that person do this, right?"

My wife looked out over a classroom of heads staring intently at the floor.

"That's fine," she said, "if no one wants to tell me now, we can stay here after school until someone wants to talk."

It was a sullen group that returned for afternoon announcements. Everyone else was going home for the weekend; my wife was going to follow through and hold her students hostage. Meanwhile, though, they had decided on some other possible ways to divert suspicion.

"That's probably been there for years," ventured one theorist. After all... permanent ink, right?

Wrong. "I cleaned this classroom over Easter Break," Long Suffering Spouse responded. "I changed all the wall decorations, as you know. If it had been here before, I would have known. This is new. Now, will someone tell me who did this so we can all go home?"

An uncomfortable silence followed.

Actually, "silence" is not exactly the right word. Eighteen junior high kids are never truly silent. They fidgeted. They muttered to one another. ("We're never getting out of here," my wife overheard one whisper to a friend, "she stays late every day." "I know," the other hissed back. "She's still here most days when I come back for basketball practice.")

Many of the kids tried to get away on the basis of preexisting arrangements. "My mom's waiting in the parking lot," one said. "She can wait awhile," my wife said.

"But I've got a dental appointment!" one said, and, suddenly, so did five or six others. "I guess you'll all be late then," my wife said.

Time passed. At Greenwich, the worthies at the Royal Observatory probably counted the passage of no more than 10 or 15 minutes, but to the sixth and seventh and eighth graders in my wife's homeroom, a lifetime at least had ebbed away.

Finally one spoke. "If I say I did it, will you let us go?"

Long Suffering Spouse regarded the volunteer. She seemed an unlikely candidate; my wife doubted her guilt. Long Suffering Spouse thought that the crude printing was likely a boy's -- but, in this post-literate age, where handwriting is increasingly a lost art, it's harder and harder to tell a boy's writing from a girl's. Girls' cursive no longer necessarily has big balloon letters, much less hearts instead of dots over 'i's. These days, everyone's handwriting looks like a doctor's after a three-martini lunch. "Of course," my wife told me later, "no matter how many times I tell them, half of these kids fail to put their names on their papers. I'm forced to learn how to recognize individual printing and handwriting just to get the kids' stuff graded properly."

No, my wife was pretty certain that the volunteer was not the guilty party. She probably knew who did it; most of the kids in the room probably did, but the unwritten Code of Silence seemed to protect the miscreant. No one would snitch... but my wife was hoping peer pressure would succeed in forcing the guilty party to acknowledge the offense. "But did you do it?" my wife asked the girl who'd volunteered to take the rap.


"Then, no, I won't let you all go."

The kids made no effort to conceal their groans. "What if we all clean desks and blackboards from now to the end of the year?" asked one.

"I thought you don't like collective punishments," my wife answered. Yes, the topic has come up before. "Why don't you just tell me who did this instead?"

Eventually, technology defeated my wife, leaving her madder than ever.

It seems one of the little darlings was doing more than just avoiding eye contact by staring at the floor. She also surreptitiously texted her mother from the cell phone concealed by her purse, asking her mother to have her paged to the Principal's office. Several of her classmates watched her, wondering if it would work.

It did.

The child was paged to the Principal's office, and off she went, ecstatic to be released.

The Code of Silence which protected the graffiti artist did not, apparently, apply to escape attempts: A number of the girl's classmates finked on her before the door was fully shut.

The spell was broken anyway. "This isn't over," my wife warned, as she released the rest of the group, just a couple of minutes later. "I will find out who did this and there will be consequences."

I got an earful of those consequences not much later: Long Suffering Spouse was fit to be tied. And she was angry all over again this morning. To my knowledge, however, the perpetrator still remains at large.


Amanda said...

They protect their own. I taught 7th grade many years ago, and now my own son is in 8th grade. The age group can be delightful, but in matters like this all I can say is I wish your wife the best of luck. If it's at all possible, from what you've said she'll ferret out the culprit.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

sounds like my kids when they were young. some things they have YET to admit who did them...

smiles, bee