Tuesday, May 29, 2007

God Bless the First Amendment

It's alive and well, but I've taught my students it no longer applies once they enter my classroom.

The other morning, one of my students walked in with a very tight-fitting blouse announcing, "You can't be the first, but you can be next."

I asked her if she'd considered that message, and it appeared she had. I told her if my daughter came home wearing such a thing she would be in mortal danger.

"You wouldn't kill your daughter, Meester."

"No, but I'd burn the shirt for sure."

But clearly that wasn't the appropriate move while the kid was wearing it, so I taught my lesson and forgot about it.

The next period, a young man walked in ten minutes late wearing a shirt with a huge middle finger emblazoned on it. Under the finger it said, "Yankees."

I'm indifferent to baseball, but I decided right then and there that was beyond the pale (Some of my colleagues suggested it would have been acceptable had it said "Mets"). I noticed he was wearing a white T-shirt under the huge finger. I told him he couldn't wear that shirt in my class.

"I already am."

"You're gonna have to go into the bathroom and take it off if you want to stay here."


The problem with giving ultimatums to kids is you really must follow through. I called the dean's office, and the secretary insisted on talking to him. She tried to persuade him to turn it inside-out, but he refused (but isn't she great for trying?). She then sent security guards.

While they were coming, I called the young man's father. He asked to speak to his son. The security guards arrived, and I asked them to wait. The father told him to take the shirt off. No dice.

Now dad's gotta come to school and pick up the shirt. And it grieves me deeply to admit my ten-year record of not throwing kids out is broken (I don't count the clearly sick kid I forced to go to the nurse's office).

It may be my fault. As this kid is borderline passing (and till recently I was inclined to give him 65), I failed to mention his possible grade reduction before calling the dean. I'll never know whether I could have avoided this with just a gentle little veiled threat, and that bugs the hell out of me.

Still, though, it's much better that I carried through with my threat. Had I not done so, future threats would be worthless. If you're young, rest assured that being a teacher is the best possible training you could ever have for being a parent.
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