When I was in 7th grade, I attended a middle school that was named for a recently deceased community leader. Really, it should have been called Lord of the Flies Middle School.
It was intense. There was a principal who had become notorious for making the entire student body—I don’t remember exactly, but it was somewhere around 600 or so students—march in total silence through the halls after some unruly behavior during an all-school assembly.
There was “Rob,” who by age 12 had so many run-ins with law enforcement that he developed a close relationship with our school’s Officer Friendly.
“Chuck” had been held back so many times that he wore a mustache as an 8th grader. I think sometimes he even drove himself to school.
“Jeff” wore thick combat boots with a pin wedged in the toe so he could inflict maximum pain on anyone he decided to kick.
“Kim” was the prettiest girl I had ever seen; she made me feel dizzy whenever I was in the same room with her, which was all of my classes.
One day when I felt particularly confused (which is really saying something), I engaged in conversation with a substitute teacher. I was acting rude and disrespectful, and in return she was remarkably polite and kind. She made a simple request of me—something simple like, “Please hand me that eraser”—and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to demand monetary compensation. I rudely quoted the minimum wage rate and refused to comply.
That’s when I found out that the substitute teacher was, in fact, the assistant principal. I blushed, handed her the eraser, and then continued on with my daily routine, which consisted of counting down the hours and minutes until I could get off the school bus and head home. That’s when I could finally stop worrying whether anyone could see the perspiration stains on the armpits of my t-shirt.
It was in this environment that the grownups who cared for me thought the most important things for me to learn were about Mesopotamia, how to diagram a sentence, and the scientific method.
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