Monday, October 15, 2012

"I'm Gonna Egg That Car!"

Lawndale High School was at best slightly better than Hawthorne High.

The students had to apply to enroll in that school, usually students who wanted to anywhere but Leuzinger High, or get away from Hawthorne.

There I was an ear-witness only all the drama that had played out in the Centinela Valley Schools. Teachers involuntarily transferred, retaliation against teachers who complained to district officials about disrespect or poor supplies. The culture of disrespect in Centinela is a poisonous mix of back-stabbing and double-dealing, but I have since learned this culture of corruption and favoritism exists just about everywhere. The less government involved in our education, the better -- that's how I see it.

So there was me, covering for a teacher who had gone on stress leave. The level of stress at this school, no other way to say it, was high and growing. And being a substitute did not make it any easier. After six weeks of insanity, lack of support, and unending drama, I understand why the woman went on stress leave. Now that I think about it, I cannot understand why more teachers don't just throw in the towel much sooner. Perhaps that pension is just too good to let go. I

I was in for the ride of my life, and not in a good way. Good times and bad times, but mostly bad, colored the fast times at Lawndale High.

"Some people are different from others" and Lawndale was no exception, as far as schools, as far as students were concerned. The students, to some extent, were more behaved. Many of them wanted me to stay, and they were willing to work with me. The full-time teacher who went on leave did not excite these kids. They did not want her to come back. That was the long and short of it. At the time, I was just going through the motions, trying to get by in this life. Not sure where I was going, not sure what I wanted to do -- not sure who I was! These trying times would bury most people's souls, but as for me, the grace of God was moving in my life, notwithstanding how I felt or what I was thinking. I cannot believe that I am writing this, but I now do not regret one moment. The trials that I endured then have now prospered me on my way to receive God's goodness without trying to earn it or fight for it.

The librarian complained about everyone and everything. At first, I never understood why she was so negative. After six weeks at that school, everything made perfect sense. The school was dysfunctional and accommodating, to the students for the most part. Of course, as second class citizen substitute, I could never have hoped for a break. Well, not from everybody.

I got to teach government for the first time in a long time, and I liked it. Well, I liked government, although I did not necessarily like teaching it. The seniors I could work with, as one of the other history teachers told me.The seniors wanted to graduate, they felt the pressure to do well, and so they took the government class more seriously. They worked with me, in part because I showed up with plans and enthusiasm. One of the kids was a Satan worshipper, Mike, who was an angle in one sense: he wanted me to stay for the rest of the year. Never before had anyone written a letter on my behalf to an administrator! This guy was awesome, so I thought. I believe, though, looking back on the whole thing. He was a goth rocker, this one guy, and unlike the outrageously overdrawn main office staff, this guy gave me supplies and ideas to work with. On some days, I wanted him to take me with him to his underground rock concerts where I could scream bloody murder at the difficulties in which I found myself.

Perhaps the other guy, Mike, would be there, eating a bat or taking a baseball bat to the rowdy crowd in the Mosh Pit. Maybe not.

Anyway, Mike was a part of the rowdy second period class, full of the strangest breed of students. One kid, Scott, was a nut! He was a playful nut, I guess, the type that the previous teacher had tried to reach, constantly having to sit him in place. In that class, this one crazy black girl, Carry, was always calling me "Extra!" "He just extra!" "Extra" means "super strict", and I was strict because I expected students to be on time and do their work, and subs were not supposed to demand anything.The deans told me that she was a lot calmer than she used to be. The librarian told me that she had been dancing the discipline dance with this young lady for all four years that she enrolled at Lawndale. She liked to get into fights, too. I was front-row center on one row in the hallway outside of class between her and another cheerleader. That was ugly!

Oh, and I cannot forget Tray - he wore Spiderman glove! He was always calling me "Mr. Shop-Shop" or "Mr, Shop Boy" -- that second name never made much sense to me, but he calmed down toward the end.

Then the football players. Most of them were easy-going, but Jay was a nut. He was one of those paranoid types who released his angst through hostility and disrespect. "I just don't like you!" he told me once, and his parents did nothing about the guy. What a sad waste of character. This one loved to make fun of the way that I laughed, too. He really did not like me. I was a thorn in his side, and I did not even know it! I did have the last laugh, after all.

But Scott and Ed, these two challenged me one day. I kept the two of them after class because they had been talking too much during class time. Ed then told me flat out: "Mr. Schaper, we know that you're a good teacher, but we don't respect you."

I had been through so much in my life, that at that point I did not give a rat's butt anymore about trying to earn a kid's respect. Frankly, the fact that any students presumed to barter with me for anything merely informed me that that person had no respect to give. I refused to bite. I stood my ground, and the two of them rolled their eyes in disgust.

I think of these two specifically because the next day, I shut down the class because they were just too noisy. I could not talk over the class and conduct the "Jeopardy" test review that I wanted to implement. All of a sudden, I saw those two kids walk towards the window on the far side of the room and point out towards the parking lot. I heard Ed say "Is that his car? Yeah, I think that's the one."

I had no idea what they were talking about until I drove out of the parking lot that afternoon. I saw Scott hanging out with a few other students, including some kid I did not recognize. All of a sudden, this unknown student shouted at me as I was driving by:

"I'm gonna egg that car!"

That would be a first, my car getting egged, but I laughed it off then, and I still do.

When I started subbing at Leuzinger, the last school that I ever thought that I would visit. The students were actually much better behaved, and that's what the dean told me. At first, I never believed it, since I had heard and kept all the bad stories about what happened in those schools.

I remember covering the French class one day. The upper level students were not the sharpest kids in the school, but they were willing to listen. I would speak in French, just about every word, and they would kid me, going "Oh, yeah, sure. . " but of course, smiling the whole time I knew that they had NO IDEA what I was saying.

Then I told them about those evil kids from Lawndale High School who had threatened to egg my car. They all laughed. I thought it was funny, too! I had the last laugh, indeed.

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