I suppose I should write this today lest I wait another week and attribute my current love for my first period class to a bout of temporary insanity. Remember, please, that this is a one-day story of pleasantries and is no way indicative of my actual year-long experience with this class. Remember too, however, that these children are ninth graders and are thus prone to daily vacillations in their behavior.
I, as their teacher, must remember the same thing.
On Tuesday of this week I was perilously close to repeatedly banging my head into a student’s desk. The day wasn’t much different than any other: first period a few students took fourteen minutes to find a pencil; I collected homework to discover that the majority of my students have been lying to me about completion presumably all year; then my second period class decided to “raise the roof” during my attempts to teach and somehow managed to signal the beginning of a human “wave” which swept through my room as I discussed imperialism. The day went downhill from there, and I thus concluded that I would either sacrifice my desire for perfect attendance by getting “sick” on Wednesday, or I would have to show a movie in order to survive the week. As I own a copy of Hotel Rwanda, I opted for the latter and, on Wednesday, preemptively discussed the connection between the Rwandan ethnic conflict and Belgian colonization.
During first period on Thursday, at the midpoint of the movie, I felt myself start to unravel a bit. Despite the fact that I’ve seen the movie twelve times already, the removal of the majority of the United Nations peacekeeping force, coupled with the separation of the Europeans from the Rwandans strangled my idyllic belief that good ultimately triumphs over evil. So, in sticking with my apparent predilection for self-imposed public humiliation, I started to cry. I knew full well though, that if my first period class witnessed my emotional outburst, I would never command their respect again, so I tried really hard to fight off my tears. I expended so much energy attempting to do this, in fact, that I started to sweat and felt my face flush fuchsia. Then it happened: my eyes got wet, and my nose started to run. I tilted my head upwards towards the ceiling and tried to mentally will the tears to stay in my eyes, and the snot in my nose. I knew if I sniffed (which I obviously needed to do) or wiped my eyes with my sleeves, I would attract the attention of twenty-seven pairs of eyes. Such an attraction, in my paranoid mind, would undoubtedly unleash a litany of mini-disasters: the kids would find the undoing of their teacher more entertaining than the movie; I, resenting their amusement at my expense would be forced to act teacherly and mean and turn off the movie; I would be forced to spontaneously invent some type of alternative assignment on the following chapter which I had yet to read, and they would never understand the connection between European imperialism and the mess that currently exists in Africa. God. Please don’t sniff!
But amidst all of my internal pleading, an innocent tear ran down my cheek (bringing mascara with it), and a small line of snot suddenly stretched between my nose and my mouth. It was disgusting. I had to do it. I had to sniff.
The row of kids sitting closest to me uniformly whipped their heads around to look (as predicted), and one of them blurted out, “Ms. Hooks is crying!” (Also predicted.) But then, rather than the predicted sequence of mini-disasters, four of my female students turned to look at me and they were crying too (I have never been so relieved to see other people in tears!). One of my kids stood up to hand me a roll of paper towels (it’s a city school, we have no tissues), and Darrin, whose mom’s phone number is on speed dial in my cell phone, piped up with, “Ms. Hooks, it’s okay – I’m crying on the inside.”
So this is what I conclude: my first period class, while driving me effectively batty all year long, is filled with the exact thing that the movie so pointedly lacks – goodness.