Hurricane Isaac was a blessing of sorts. Just as we new teachers were second-guessing our career choices, the storm afforded us a week of repose and reflection. During those days of darkness, sweat, and canned goods, my roommates and I also had to suffer through a webinar (an online seminar) that was part of our teaching certification program. As a result of the power outage, we used our cell phones to participate in lieu of computers. This massive conference call was made worse by an obnoxious BEEP that sounded whenever some joined or left the call.
The poor facilitator began, “Okay, lets BEEP get started BEEP I BEEP think that BEEP just about every BEEP one has signed in BEEP by now.”
“So,” he continued, “I’m going to explain how you will be graded by our rubric. There are five different categories that will be averaged to determine your grade. Remember, you need to get BEEP at least a 3.5 or higher in order to be eligible for your certificate in May.”
“Dude, this is ridiculous,” I remarked to my roommate.
“…student surveys. And don’t forget that the first classroom visit will be announced, while the rest of the classroom visits will be unannounced. It is imperative BEEP that you fill out your classroom schedule has been sent to you in your email. Well, whenever you get power back…”
I leaned over and picked up a toy rubber band gun that was lying on the floor. When I moved south, I packed two of my prized possessions -- a pair of matching wooden pistols -- as a combination of nostalgia, humor, and practicality. Red Solo cups along the windowsill make for an excellent shooting gallery.
“…control of your classroom, lesson planning, and test scores. The remaining twenty percent of your grade will be derived from the coursework that BEEP you will complete for the bimonthly training sessions. It is crucial that you complete this coursework in a timely manner. Failure to do so will result in…”
POW POW POW POW POW POW POW
About half the targets fell and littered the damp wooden floor.
“…leadership, excellence, and commitment to the future of our students. Now, I’m going to wrap up the main points before we sign off here. Please wait to sign off until I have recapped the objectives. Objective number one: BEEP BEEP BEEP teachers will BEEP BEEP understand BEEP the BEEP rubric BEEP…”
“Well, that was productive.”
The first day of school after the hurricane was met with more relief than dread. Having suffered no flooding personally, I really had no perspective of the experience of the rest of Westfield High School. I walked through the heavy doors to the main office, where the secretary was relaying the misfortune of her niece.
“Nine feet of water! Can you believe it? She didn’t get a single inch after Katrina.”
I ascended three flights of stairs to my classroom and started the coffee maker. Between homeroom and first period one of my favorite seniors walked in to say hello.
“It’s been a long time!” He said. I was flattered he took the time to stop by.
“Good to see you, Sean. How was your week off?” I asked.
“Uh, well, it was okay. I might not be here tomorrow, just wanted to let you know.”
“Okay, no problem. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, but I gotta go to court,” he answered casually.
“Well, one night during the storm it was late, and I had gotten up to fix something to eat. So I was in the back of the house -- it’s one of those shotgun-style places in Gretna -- working in the kitchen, when I thought I heard some voices. So, I walked out to the front and I heard a few guys -- maybe like four of them -- discussing something, and it sounded like they were trying to break into the house.
“Yeah. My house, though.. You don’t break into my house. In the first room, I got my bow and arrow sitting there. In my second room, I got my knives all set up on one side and my gun rack on the other. So these guys didn’t know what they were getting into.”
I visualized my own armory. I probably had about 500 rubber bands.
“So the one guy kicks down the door,” he continued, “and I’m already standing there with the shotgun, so I unload one right at him.”
The irony of shooting a shotgun at someone trying to break into a shotgun-style house dawned on me.
“You shot a guy?”
“Yeah,” Sean answered, as if that was a minor detail of the story.
“So… what happened?”
“The other guys ran away. I was sure the one dude was dead. But it turned out all the shots just missed his heart, so he was alright.”
“Well, at least you didn’t kill him, right?”
“I mean if I killed him it would have been self-defense. But now that he’s alive, he suing me.”
“Jeez. I, uh… I can’t imagine,” I paused. “Well, listen, we’re just going to review acceleration tomorrow. And there’s going to be a quiz on Friday.”
Sean shrugged and left the room, leaving me alone with his hurricane experience and mine. Those kids grow up quickly. Or, maybe I grew up slowly. Never having shot a human being, I suppose I am further removed from the intimacy and fragility of life and death. The bell rang and in walked twenty living, breathing teenagers. Life was what I had at that moment, so I stood up and spoke.
This article is by Jonathan Holt. Please send all comments to [email protected]