Quick Note: As you may or may not care, I'm still doing this Diaryland Survivor contest thing. The topic for the 4th Immunity Challenge is to write about a significant event in your life from another person's point of view. I went through a bunch of significant points of my life: The first time I puked from drinking, the time I puked on myself after mixing pot and tequila, then there was that other time I puked when I ate a rancid bagel. But then I realized that my life has been filled with other events that shaped and molded me into the person that I am today and- remarkably- some did not involve puking. Having D. "Fat Ankles" Hackler as a fifth grade 'teacher' was one of those life situations where I wished I could have puked, but didn't. She was a real bitch.
I knew GirleeLeroy was trouble the first time she walked into my classroom.
She was skinny. Perched on her face were a pair of big Gloria Steinem glasses with a hot pink chain attached to both sides of the frames. An oversized T-shirt that read "The Answer Is To Question" and had a flaming question mark on it draped over her long body. A gapped grin that contained teeth that were too big for her face would peak out in moments when grins were not appropriate. And she was taller than the rest of the students.
You always become suspicious of the tall ones. It's a sign of evolution.
There is nothing worse than a tall fifth grader that has a unique personality. Nothing worse.
Luckily, I was spared having her in my English class. She was one of those 'Gifted and Talented' students. One of those students that went to the classroom that contained bean bag chairs where they lounged and spent time doing creative writing and analogies. (Analogies are Satanic if you ask me. Throw bean bag chairs into the mix and you've gone Pagan Wild. Yet the school board says that these classes are needed for "Accelerated Learners," so I bite my tongue.)
But I did have her for my Social Studies class. We won't go into details on how she behaved in that class, because, frankly, I would be afraid that doing such would expose other youngsters to inappropriate behavior.
And we all know that inappropriate behavior leads to drug use, gangs, and pre-marital sex.
As you can see, I am very strong in my morals. I know that I am a role model to my students. I am molding and shaping the young minds that will lead our country into the 21st century- a century that will have flying cars, vacation resorts on the moon, and the ten commandments in every school building in our nation.
You will understand why I was chosen to be the sponsor of the school's student council. (Yes, some will say it was because no other teacher wanted to do it- but I believe they did not voice their desire to lead such a prestegious organization because they knew my leadership would be far superior.) You may ask why an elementary school would even have a student council, for children should be seen and not heard. I totally agree with you- I had my reseravations about it as well. However, the magnet elementray school in our city started a student council for their student body. Not wanting to loose credtials in the eyes of our school board, in combination with opinons expressed in one of our PTA meetings, the school concluded that having such an organization would be a good idea.
As is required, elections for the Student Council President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer were held at the beginning of the school year. I received nomination forms from many students, including Miss GirleeLeroy. Of course, at the time, I knew that there was no way that she had a chance in winning her bid for Student Council President. She was, well, a nerd and the other contenders were football players and cheerleaders- you know, popular. If my experience as a fifth grade teacher has taught me anything, children vote for the person they want to be most like.
And who would want to be a gapped-tooth, four-eyed, bean stalk with an extensive vocabulary and devilsh sense of self?
That's why I was so surprised as I tallied the votes. At first, I thought that I had miscounted. Yet GirleeLeroy had an overwhelming majority. Reluctantly, I broke the news to her and the Head of the Cheerleader team (her opponent) in the breezeway outside my classroom.
The cheerleader began to cry. Her electric blue eyeliner ran down her face and the bow on her head shook with each sob. My heart went out to her, poor dear.
GirleeLeroy just stood there. I daresay that the little hoodlum was as shocked as I was. She patted her competition on the shoulder and said, "I'm sorry. Don't cry." But I knew that deep in her wicked chest her heart was bursting with joy.
I must say that I did a fine job squashing many of the attempted events GirleeLeroy tried to schedule. I explained that her idea of students wearing Halloween costumes to school on Halloween would take away from the learning environment that we were trying to maintain. She settled on my suggestion of allowing students to wear black and orange on that sinful day instead. When she asked to organize a day where students got to teach their favorite classes to their peers and teacher alike, I laughed in her face.
"What a horrendous idea! What good would come of that?"
"Maybe some of the students will realize that, if their friends like math, it's okay for them to like math, too."
"How ridiculous, everyone likes math."
"I don't," she replied.
"Well maybe your Gifted and Talented class can help you with that."
That stopped her.
I did, however, take her suggestion that homerooms pick someone to read the pledge over the school's intercom system every morning. Patriotic and Educational. I thought it was a grand idea that I could take credit for and perhaps get me Teacher of The Year Award for our region.
How foolish I was to not realize that GirleeLeroy would be selected by her homeroom to read the pledge that week. I should have known, what with her good reading skills and fifth grade sense of humor that she would be chosen. Children can be so naive.
I will admit that I completely forgot about GirleeLeroy's week of pledge reading when I unlocked my classroom door and let my morning students in that fateful day. I took roll as I usually do. I collected lunch money. I was at the board, writing the date in my perfect cursive when I heard the intercom system click on.
"GOOD MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORNING UNIVERSITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!"
My heart stopped. My hand froze in the middle of the word "April", a noticeable sharp edge in the 'l' where this interuption had startled me.
"Let's all stand up and say the pledge. Come on. It'll be fun."
I stared at the intercom on the wall. How badly I wanted to have laser beam eyes that would circulate through the school's intercom wiring and shoot through the other end into GirleeLeroy's mouth to make it stop moving.
As she read the pledge, I looked at my students. They all had smiles on their faces. They all were actually enjoying saying the pledge. My blood boiled. The pledge is not meant to be enjoyed! It is meant to be revered and sacred and patriotic! There should be no fun when saying the pledge! That's not what being American is about! It's about hard work and respect of your elders and God and country!
It was evident that this GirleeLeroy came from a broken home- I'm sorry- I mean a 'single parent household'. How else could you explain her lack of boundaries?
When the pledge was over, I told my students to sit down and begin their reading excersises. Many of them giggled and mumbled to one another "how funny they thought the pledge was".
Anarchy. GirleeLeroy would cause gap-toothed anarchy if she was not stopped.
Once my class had settled, I stepped outside my doorway and waited for GirleeLeroy to walk by, for her homeroom class was adjacent to mine. I could feel my blood pressure rise. My ankles began to swell to twice their normal size. (Large ankles are actually considered attractive in some cultures. I don't understand why mine aren't praised more often.) I counted slowly to 20 in order to calm my self down. When I reached 8, I saw GirleeLeroy approach.
"That was a very interesting pledge this morning, Miss GirleeLeroy."
"Thanks Mrs. Hackler. Principal Sanders and Mrs. Robison said it was the best pledge we've ever had."
This threw me over the edge. Best pledge we've ever had? How could they say such a thing? Did the leadership of our school not recognize a fifth grade hooligan when they saw one?
"Well, I'm glad they enjoyed it. I, for one, will not stand for such antics. I personally was offended by your use of a pop culture phrase from a Rated R movie as an introduction to our Country's pledge."
GirleeLeroy's face went pale. I could tell that my teacher tone of voice was working on her.
"And, Miss GirleeLeroy. If you continue to say the pledge in such a fashion, I will make sure that your, and everyone else's pledge privleges will be suspended indefinitly."
GirleeLeroy looked at me- her green eyes piercing through her feminist frames. She spoke quietly, reluctantly.
"Mrs. Hackler, I'm so sorry. I thought I did a good job. I made everyone laugh."
"I'm not laughing. My face does not show any sign of laughter on it, does it Miss GirleeLeroy?"
"No Ma'am, it doesn't."
"And that's because I am not pleased with you GirleeLeroy. You are the President of the Student Council and the President does not do such things. Do you see President Regan making jokes when he gives speeches?"
GirleeLeroy paused. An expression crossed her face that I've never seen in the face of a fifth grader. Behind her sad eyes, I could see hate raging in her tiny brain. She spoke.
"My Mom says that President Regan is a joke."
Well, that's all I needed to hear. I knew right then and there that there was no saving this child. She was lost. A goner. Most likely she would end up dropping out of school and joining some liberal Jesse Jackson cult. If it were legal, I would have bent her over my knee and spanked her right then and there. Instead, I grabbed her arm and pulled her close.
"Listen to me, Miss GirleeLeroy. I will not stand to hear you, a child, say that the President of our country is a joke. That is anarchist and non-American. Do you understand me?"
Her eyes were glued to the ground.
"And tomorrow, when you say the pledge, I want you to use a sweet voice and not pull any of the antics that you pulled today. Do we understand each other?"
"Yes Ma'am," she replied, eyes still glued to the ground.
"Good. Now get to your Giften and Talented class. I'm sure you have a lot of hard work to do in there."
She walked away. I thought I had won. Until the next morning when the intercom system clicked on.
"GOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING UNIVERSITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!"
What was wrong with this child? How could I get her to fear and bow to my authority? Apparently a stern talking to would not work. I knew that writing a letter to her mother would not be an option, especially if she was teaching President hating in her home. I thought that, maybe, for the first time in my career, I had been beaten. Beaten by a fifth grader. By one of my own students. A-
One of my own students.
I was the teacher.
She was my student.
That afternoon, when GirleeLeroy slipped into my class, trying to make her tall body as small as possible, I knew she knew that I knew I was the one with the power. She avoided eye contact through out the day. When I asked her questions, she would answer them- correct on the most part- but I would point out to her, and the rest of her classmates, how her answers contained dangling prepositions and poor verbage. Not once for the rest of the school year would I choose one of her essays to put on the "Bulletin Board Of Pride." Her salt map of North Carolina, although very well constructed, had too many lumps in my opinion and was worthy of the grade 'C' that I gave her. I would take off on her Social Study quizes when she made an incorrect cursive "Z" or mispelled 'Minneapolis.'
And I would be the first teacher, in the history of GirleeLeroy's elementary career to give her a 'B-' in conduct.
I may not have completely broken her. Yet I will tell you this, I had an impact on her that she will never forget... and knowing this makes my ankles swell with pride.