It’s 7:35 A.M. or what I would call butt crack of dawn. Coffee tastes so good, especially since I am not supposed to drink it. It gives me migraines, just as pizza does, which is why I think of pizza as a cheese covered orgasm. At least that’s how I remember it. The coffee effect isn’t quite the same, but after I milk it down as much as possible I have just enough to make this morning tolerable.
Today we’re finishing up the reading and analyzing of a short story about gang violence. The students usually find it relatable and will engage in it for at least fifteen to thirty minutes.
At 7:45 I ask, “What do you predict will happen to John?” I see a couple of hands, but since they are the same three hands I always see, I call on Jake who is more interested in his pen.
“I don’t know,” Jake responds because it is his most comfortable answer.
“There’s no wrong answer. Just take a guess. We know John joined the Royals and is wearing their purple jacket. We also know that one of their rivals is angrier than usual and going to the same party.” Despite my certainty that this is a simple situation, Jake continues to stare at his pen and shrug. Maybe some multiple choice will work. “Do you think John will stay home from the party even though his girlfriend’s there just so he can stay out of trouble, or do you think he will go and get into a fight?”
Jake thinks about it but quickly turns to see Mike Berona walking through my door. Crap. I was hoping to accomplish some things today. I watch him head to the back of the room for his seat, which is unusual because he likes to go to two or three other seats first just so we can have a five minute delay of ‘Mike, go to your seat.’ Just as I am deciding to avoid the three minute attitude loaded excuse for where he’s been, I get a huge whiff of fresh marijuana smoke. Immediately looking at the other kids to see what their reaction is, I take a sigh of relief as no one seems to notice. I quickly decide that I got to get him out of here and with an administrator before they think this is the coolest thing since sliced bread. I calmly make my way over to the call button while I watch Mike sitting calmly, a little too calmly for him.
One of the secretaries, Kathy, answers my call over the loud speaker. You will always get Kathy when you call and you will always hear the announcements of the day given by her. This is because she has the whiniest and shriekiest voice known to man and we, the beings of the classroom, are not agonized enough as it is.
“Yes, can you ask Mr. Kolowski to come to my room?”
“He’s in a meeting right now.”
“Just tell him to come as soon as he can unless someone else can get here.”
“Has there been a fight?”
“No.” The administration of this school has decided that they do not need to assist us in anyway unless violence and/or safety is an issue.
For the next twenty minutes it’s business, or something like it, as usual until Kolowski comes into my classroom. In front of the class he says to me in a tone I mostly reserve only for my students, “What is the problem? I am in an important meeting.”
The students stare in amazement letting out a few slight chuckles. I move closer to him and softly explain that Mike reeks of marijuana. He gives a quick ok and takes Mike out of the room.
Appalled at Kolowski’s’s reaction to my call and considering I never request him or anyone else unless absolutely necessary, I resolve to write an email as follows:
“I was deeply concerned for the morale of my entire class when I noticed Mike’s state. I did not want the other students to notice due to his popularity amongst them. In addition, the gossip that would follow would disrupt their entire day. I hope you do not feel that I would interrupt your day for anything less than incredibly important.”
Confidence surged through me as I deemed my email both mature and professional, but a quick “Please see me” was the response I received.
I spent most of the evening in a worrisome state as neither Kolowski or I was able to meet each other yesterday. Does he actually think that I am wrong? Did I say something that crossed the line? I kept reassuring myself that, no, he simply was going to fill me in on what happened. Or maybe he has some semi-confidential information about Mike that he wants to explain to me, so I understand the situation fully. Despite my own consoling, I dreaded the worst. But hey, I usually do that just to find in the end it was all for nothing.
After my first three classes the following day, I stepped into his office to see Kolowski sitting at his desk. He resembled a man somewhere between an exhausted Santa Claus at the end of his Christmas delivery and a grumpy grandfather not enjoying the two-year-old’s birthday party.
“Carlie, I wanted to let you know that though I appreciate you expression of concern, I am unsure as to why you believe that Mike was smoking marijuana,” he began as he confidently reclined in a chair I hoped didn’t break from the strain, or maybe I hoped it did.
I struggled and began to panic. My instincts were precise. He is questioning me. “What do you mean? I told you he absolutely reeked of the stuff.”
“Well, here’s the problem. After I took Mike from your class, I brought him to three other adults in the building and they all agreed that he did not smell like marijuana. Now, Mike’s uncle is the one who drops him off in the morning and he smokes a considerable amount of cigarettes. It was probably just the second-hand smoke you smelled on him. Carlie, isn’t it true that you are just frustrated with Mike? Perhaps that is what this is about.”
Something inside of me, perhaps the last little bit of self-esteem I had left from this place sucking it away like a spiteful vampire, started to snap. “Cigarettes? You have got to be kidding me. I have not been out of college so long that I can’t tell the difference between cigarette smoke and pot! As far as frustrated, yes! Me and the rest of the school. However, yesterday Mike wasn’t the bit frustrating at all. He was too relaxed from all the pot he smoked. He was quieter and happier than I had ever seen him. If you think that I am more interested in my own benefits than the well-fare of the twenty-nine other students in my classroom, than your forty years of experience must be filled with people who don’t care about the real reason why we’re here and I hope you are not one of them. If there is nothing else, I would prefer to go back to my room to prep for my lessons.”
Honestly, his expression changed very little. I had neither shocked him or convinced him of anything. “I would only like to say that I am sorry you feel that way.”
I walked hurriedly back to my room. There are so many levels on which this fires me up. There’s no doubt that Mike out of my classroom isn’t my best part of the day each and every time, but I am not one to falsely accuse for my own benefit. Are others? I decided to robot my way through the rest of the day. I had enough for the day.
On the way home I poured my heart, soul, and grief out to Lisa, my commuting buddy.
“Oh, that reminds me,” she interjects once I pause in my soliloquy for more than three seconds. “Josh said that as he was on his morning cafeteria duty yesterday, he checked the bathroom, and Mike was in there, around seven forty. He told him to get out and Mike left.”
“Really? That makes perfect sense. Unfortunately we’re not the kind of school where you take the kid to the office for tardiness and he gets in trouble. There’s no consequence for that here. Did he smell any smoke?”
“He said he didn’t really pay attention or get close enough.”
“Oh, well. Even if I told Kolowski that Mike was obviously late to my class for smoking pot in the bathroom, he still wouldn’t do anything about it. In fact, I wasn’t expecting the kid to get in serious trouble or anything. What are we going to do, drug test him? I was just worried about him being in class with the others, that’s all. But for the whole thing to get turned around on me is beyond my comprehension.”
Once I got home, the only thing I could manage was laying in bed. I cried. I cried until my head hurt. I cried until Dan came home. Then I cried to him.
“I can’t be at this school anymore. I’d rather do anything else. How can you allow me to be this miserable?”
Dan promised me it wasn’t forever. Just a little longer. One more day seemed too long.