“You asked for this,” I tell myself as I stand in front of the unruly grade nine students. They’re big. They’re loud. They’re bold. And, I’m not all that much older than them.
|provided by D. Jones|
They’re my PFL class—Perspectives for Living. I’m supposed to teach them life skills—self-esteem, drug and alcohol education, sex education.… They’re here because the drama teacher and the art teacher are fed up with them and only the academic kids take the other two options offered—French as a Second Language (which is the bulk of my teaching assignment) and music.
I have great plans for this class, field trips to see court in session, guest speakers, etc., but I can’t do any of that until I get some control. The first couple of weeks do not go well so I hatch a plan.
“Here’s the thing,” I say. “You guys put yourselves in groups of four and every Friday I’ll take a group for lunch. You pay for your meal. I’ll pay the tip.”
Group one pile into my car that first Friday and we drive to a small restaurant near the school. We have a great time. Group two and three go equally well. The atmosphere in the class begins to change.
“Shut up! Mrs. Jones wants to talk.” This is the biggest, toughest kid in the school talking and they do. Shut up, that is.
Then it’s group four—five boys from Lebanon with very shady reputations. “Where’s A?” I ask.
Waiting for us in the parking lot. And he is. Sitting in the driver’s seat of his own car. I didn’t know he was old enough to drive. He gets out and gallantly opens the passenger door for me. Great! I get to ride shotgun which wouldn’t be bad normally, but the car is festooned with huge fury dice and pompoms, and upholstered in plush red velour.
“It’s okay. I’ll sit in the back,” I offer.
The young man insists I take the front seat. I slide in and sink down as low as I can. I don’t particularly want to be seen in this car. It’s not a matter of snobbery, honest. It’s a matter of professional reputation. As with the other groups, lunch is a huge success. They reveal a side of themselves that I would normally never have known. Underneath the bravado, they’re kids.
Nor do we neglect the academic students. My fellow French teacher and I offer to take the grade nine students to a French restaurant at the end of the year. Seventeen kids take us up on the offer. We have a wonderful time. They even use a bit of their rudimentary language skills with the waiters, who it turns out, don’t speak French at all.
On the way out, patrons waiting for tables stare at the multicultural crew of gangly teens. “Thanks for dinner, Mom,” one says loudly.
“Oh, you’re welcome,” I say, struggling to keep a straight face.
The majority of my career was spent with junior high students as teacher and later principal. I laughed with the kids, cried with them, learned from them, and loved them. Is it any wonder then that junior high aged teens snuck into my novels without my conscious awareness? As with my real students, my fictional teens are near and dear to my heart.
“Come on Dad. She can’t be real. It’s just some kind of gimmick.” She kissed him goodbye with a “see ya tomorrow.”
“It would depend on what kind of illegal,” Brad said. “Moral illegal would be different than law illegal. I wouldn’t do it just because a friend asked me to, like run drugs or something, but I would drive without a license if I thought it was necessary.”
Abdi stared at her for what seemed like an eternity and then his face lit in the most beautiful smile she had ever seen. The tension in the room eased and questions came—grudgingly, but they came.
Mouna nodded, popped a large bubble, sucked it in and chewed vigorously.
“It’s not okay, Miss D. It won’t be okay until Coder Guy comes and takes you away from here.” He gripped the hand that Abby held out to him for a moment. “Don’t worry, Miss D. He’ll come.”
“Damn straight,” Jin said.
“Hey, hey,” Emily shook a finger at the language.
“Sorry,” Jin blushed, “but some Earth expressions are just so apropos.”
“About love too?” Max asked with a sideways glance at Jin. “Like those stories you’ve told us of your parents and friends and the kids in your world?”
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