Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month, "L.A. Unified board picks Richard Vladovic as new president. By replacing Monica Garcia with Vladovic, the LAUSD board signals the waning influence of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. This begs the question: Are days numbered for embattled Superintendent John Deasy?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Class is Over. Let's Step Outside and Supervise the Hall. You'll Never Know What We'll Find.

The school administrators want teachers to stand outside their classrooms during passing periods to help control  the halls. The bell rang, so let's step into some fresh air and see what's going on.

The Titty Flicking Kid
"Hey, Mistah Blockah! Whad'you kick me out first period fo?"
"Hello, again, there, Raymond. I see you've been quickly paroled from the dean's office."
"You didn't answer my question!" he persists.
"Raymond, you know all too well why you got run. I explained it to you. You read it on the referral. Hopefully Mr. Milder reiterated it to you while performing his dean-like duty."
"He even called my mama! Why?" Raymond cries in mock stress.
"Raymond, you can't be flicking an ol' man's titty with your finger."
He grins, fondly revisualizing the scene. Adding to the fun, he now got me to bite at his bait--retelling the moment from my view. He literally reached over and flicked my titty through my shirt while we were both standing underneath the American flag during the morning salute. Sometimes Raymond pushes the envelope of decency. I have to admit, though, if I'd been watching I would've laughed, too; but, I was the laughingstock. Nevertheless, if I didn't make a big deal out his flicking my titty,  he could start trying it on his lady teachers.

No Respect
"HI BLOCKER!" The jarring shout echoes off the walls above the cacophony of swarming adolescents.
I softly reply, "Good morning, Rochelle." I gently continue, "Could you please put a 'mister' in front of my last name? It demonstrates respect, my dear."
"You always just call me by my first name."
She's got me there. I just look down towards her brown eyes and the giant wad of blue gum squishing between her incisors.  Rochelle giggles and continues victoriously on her way.

Middle School Greenie
To the guttural sound of a loud "hock, tooey," we turn around just in time to witness the flight and splat of a green wad of snot and saliva gracing the cement about three steps away.
"Good Lord, son!" I plea to the back of a dark hoody loosly enveloping the torso and head of a pimp-walking, wanna-be mack strolling to class. With all his bravado, he carries no backpack, nor anything else other than apparent congestion. "Don't blow your disgusting hocks outside my class room! I gotta work here all day."
He turns around briefly, nods to acknowledge my request. He's not one of my students, but I know his name is Dennis because Ms. Beatty, the aid in the special education English class in Room 13 up the hall, is always yelling at him to quit play fighting boys, grabbing girls, cussing--something. Dennis also needs to understand that he can't just loogie anywhere he wants. It's my job, I guess, to do my part.

Caught Looking at Ms. Beatty's Booty
What a coincidence! Lovely Ms. Beatty is gracefully passing. "Good morning, Mister Blocker," she sweetly sings as she does every day. Ms. Beatty is no youngster, but Lord, does that woman have luxuriant curves. And the finest in coiffures, manicures, pedicures, jewelry and clothing. Her designer jeans accentuate her luscious derriere to the point where I . . .
"Ah whoooo . . . you busted Blockah!" rings a joyful chorus from Michelle Branson, Sandra Brooks--and Raymond--back for an encore instead of heading toward his next class on the other side of campus.
Raymond points at my face, "You was lookin' at Ms.Beatty's booty!" The three are jumping up and down simultaneously in some hip hop move that seems too well rehearsed and choreographed to be merely impromptu. If only I could get them to read as well. Meanwhile, Ms. Beatty continues toward Room 13 stepping gracefully in those stiletto heels avoiding the spent gum and hocks.
"Mr. Blocker, tell the truth. You want some of that, huh!" Michelle probes while Sandra waits for my response while studying my face for any incriminating expression. Meanwhile Raymond is wildly thrusting his hips, hands in front like he's gripping invisible hips.
"Look," I begin . . .
"Yeah! You be doin' some lookin' alright."
"Ms. Beatty is a colleague of mine. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Ms. Beatty. She's a very attractive woman. Sometimes a man can't help but. . ."
Sandra interrupts, "You still ain't answered our question. You want some of that, huh?"
"Michelle, Sandra, that's no way to talk about Ms. Beatty. She's a professional educator. . ."
"We talking 'bout you!"
"This conversation is over. Now get inside. Sit down at your assigned seat, and begin copying down today's agenda before you get in trouble."
The girls leave. I look down at Raymond, "Besides, what do you want me to look at? You? Wasting time in the halls? Or that ugly greenie layin' over there?" I motion at the hock. Raymond recoils in exaggerated disgust. "Hurry up to class, Raymond. We don't want to be late!"

She Wants Extra Credit
"Mr Blocker?" Amanda Diaz timidly inquires. This must be a special occasion. Amanda is at school. It's the first time I've seen her in about 6 days.
"Amanda! So nice to see you!" The lashes of her narrow green eyes are heavy with mascara. Her cherubic skin is creating a stark contrast to the metal rings piercing her pink lips and bringing to mind the image of a powerful bass that got away more than the fresh face of a young girl. I subtly gaze at her hair, dyed pitch black with one wide streak of blonde straight down her bangs.
Despite her wild appearance, shyly she smiles. "My mom wants to know if there's anything I can do to raise my grade."
"Yes!" I answer.  "Try coming to class more. You'll be glad to know we conveniently meet here in third period Lunes a Viernes from 10:36 to 11:31."
She pleads, "Can I have some extra credit work?"
"Amanda," I begin earnestly, "extra credit is just that--extra credit--an assignment you do in addition to completed work to enrich what you've learned."
She wrinkles her nose. 'Enrichment' threw her off. So I elaborate, "You see, Amanda, you have to be here when the class discussed these stories, the lessons. We talk about what we read--details like what the characters do, when and where the stories happen and why that affects what they do. Then we talk about questions we have to consider while analyzing the literature. Amanda, if I leave you alone to answer the questions by yourself, all I'm going to get back is just crap, all nonsense. It could even be more harmful to your language development than not performing the assignment at all."
"Well,'' she quickly responds,  "I need to pass this class or they said my mom is going to get in trouble."
I pause a moment. "Who's 'they'?"
"These people that came over to our apartment yesterday."
"Uh oh. You mean the school truant officers?"
"I guess."
"Sweetheart," I stress, "you need to start coming to school. Never mind make-up work. You need to get here everyday, or they're going take your mom--and you--to court. Now go inside and sit down. Today is a fresh start. Focus and carefully write down our agenda. We'll worry about all that other stuff later."

The Three Stooges
Time is running out, and now here comes Solcedo, Marquez and Rios. Solcedo and Marquez are in my two-hour English class for Spanish speakers who need to clear one more ESL hurdle before getting into regular English. They read the regular 8th-grade textbook and perform all assignments native speakers get, but for court-mandated intervention they get a double dose of instruction--or twice the time.
"Solcedo, Marquez, how are you guys doing?" I ask while they saunter over as if they have all the time in the world. I'm not even supposed to see them until 5th period. It's third, so now they have Mr. Blando's algebra class next door. Blando is standing outside his door casting an annoyed eye through his thick, horn-rim glasses at the boys' lolligagging. Even so, I ask what they think they're doing running around so tightly lately with Rios, a 7th-grader who's enrolled in special ed classes. I don't know why he's special ed, but I do know he has trouble controlling himself. He's thrown trash into my room on numerous occasions, sticks his head inside while wandering the halls during classtime to call me Santa Claus and such, and is often prodded into acting the fool and taking the consequences at the urging of bigger and older students. Rios is a little fellow, even for his age, and wears the same shirt and pants which get progressively dirtier and dirtier as the week wears on.
So I ask Solcedo and Marquez again, "What are you guys doing running around all the time with Rios?"
"He does what we tell him to," Solcedo shrugs while Marquez stands by silently. Solcedo is a nice kid and a fairly hard worker, but he's sort of a weasel: he avoids eye contact and whines about everything--particularly the reading and the writing we do. Marquez, I never heard the sound of the kid's voice until after Christmas. I also never read his handwriting until about the same time. That all was my fault. I blew it as a teacher. Marquez is so damn quiet I ignored him to the detriment of his grades. His electrifying spike hair style failed to generate my attention, probably because he's so short and prefers the cheap seats in the back corner of the room. His parents must've read the resulting Fs and Us on his report card and told him in plain Spanish to get his ass in gear. Which, to Marquez's credit, he did. It's now late April and he's proven himself quite thoughtful when it comes to writing a scholastic essay. A lot of people who bitch about illegal aliens not learning English would be hard pressed to write a better narrative in English about something heroic their father has done. Marquez wrote a memorable story about his dad crossing the searing Arizona desert in the middle of August four years ago. He almost died of thirst and heat stroke. By sheer wits Dad escaped evil smugglers who tried to hold him hostage. After Senor Marquez made it to the corner of 93rd & Normandie, he sent for his wife and sons. It's flattering to think a guy went to all that trouble just so his son could come to the United States to study English under me.
But back to the matter at hand. We're running out of time. The bell is about to ring.
So I glare back at Solcedo, momentarily admiring his hairline. "Romero does what you tell him to?"
"Yeah," he sheepishly answers. The weasel. But he sure won't be going bald any time soon. The barber has to shave the top left and right corners of Salcedo's forehead.
"Well, what exactly do you tell him to do?"
"Nuthin' . . ." Salcedo's isn't a buzz cut--it's more like something you see on Caesar--only shorter.
I look over at Marquez. His eyes are wandering, wishing to be some place else. Even inside Blando's class. "Look," I snarl, "you two bullies are a year older than Rios.  He looks up to you guys. He actually admires you and wants to be a friend. You know he's in special ed. . ."
". . . because he's a 're-tard'," interrupts Solcedo. I told you he exhibited a cowardice unbecoming a lad in an Emperor's haircut. I'm pissed, but we've got to remember these middle schoolers are going through a period when they're neither cute little children nor stylishly cool teenagers.
"Solcedo, you're hanging around Rios trying to hurt him? Wow! You're a great guy to be around. What a wonderful friend!" I turn to Rios, who looks a little ashamed by the realization his new found friendship has not been requited. "Rios, buddy, it's time to get to class. You're gonna be late. We'll see you later." Rios quietly walks off leaving me to finish up with Solcedo and Marquez. "I don't mind seeing you guys walking to class together, but it makes me nervous when I like see you three wandering the halls alone up here during lunch when you ought to be down by the cafeteria or on the field. What're you fools doing?" I pause a little, then pry, "You suckers aren't up here tagging, are you? Trying to talk Rios into vandalizing the school?"
"No!" they exclaim.
"I hope not, because if you get caught, the cops take you off to jail in handcuffs. Then your parents have to go before some judge and pay a big, fat fine." I lie. "And Rios walks because he fingers you two chumps as the masterminds."
They swallow hard, exchange nervous looks.
"Hey, I've got an idea. What would I find if I searched your backpacks right now?"
"You . . . you can't search our backpacks," they stammer.
"Like hell I can't." Then I order,  "Hand 'em over."
Eyes brimming with tears, they surrender their backpacks. But I don't want to search them. Hell no. I may find Marks-A-Lot felt-tipped marking pens. Or worse, cans of spray paint. Then I'd have to send them down to Milder and waste a lot of time filling out paperwork and retelling the story ad nauseam.
Besides, the bell is about to ring. Break is over. I've got to teach an English class. Today we're reading a William Saroyan story about how one time as a kid he got sent to the principal's office for mouthing off and wound up riding his bike around town all day running errands for him--picking up lunch for both of them at the deli downtown, all sorts of crazy stuff. Lets go back inside, because I can hardly wait to get us all started.

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