“What are you doing here?” She blurted. “You’re not supposed to be here.” A hint of a pause. “No, that’s not what I mean. Why are you here?”
I understood her questions, her confusion, her mixed emotions. They were the same as mine. Depressed, self conscious (by the way, my keyboard is dying and some of the keys don’t work anymore, like the hyphen), uncertain, lonely. What could I say? I value my dogs more than I value the education of children in a society that values neither? My dogs are worth more than your children because I have more faith in my dogs being better people than I have faith that your children won’t grow up to be meth addicts, drunks, and abusive, like their elders? I had nothing to say, so I just smiled, and said ‘Good morning’. What could I say?
I learned that those who admire the traveler for leaving are often the same people who would never dream of leaving the comfort of the familiar, but, boy, are they ready to be mean to those who go and come again. It was a hollow sort of welcome, and the beginning of a very fretful time.
I worked part time as a substitute teacher. Education in the United States is reason to pray. The local paper ran one of my letters to the editor: When are parents, teachers, administrators, and other adults going to make children accountable for their behavior?, I asked. If kids do not have proper social skills, they should not be allowed to participate in social privileges such as public schools. Give them three chances, then, if they still act out, drop them off wherever their adults are, be that the job site, the bar, or the local prison. Let their adults take responsibility for the behavior of the young, and let teachers do what they are called to do: teach.
I received an anonymous thank you letter, admiring my courage for daring to speak what so many feel. They remained anonymous, lest the local regional school administration find out who they are, and take recriminations out on their students.
I also got a call one day from my employer. She had received word that “language” had been used in my class. Yes, indeed, there was language. Lots of it. One of the students who would have been happier in a psych unit was having a day. The student and her posse used lots of language, at high volume, for about fifty minutes straight. I had been informed that one of the security guards had been dismissed, so please do not ask for help unless it involves blood, guts, or broken bones. Profanity qualifies as neither. When I flat out told my employer that I wasn’t the one who said, “….”, the phone went dead silent. She was put out when I spoke candidly with her.
Students in the district where I was working learned some words early on. And I heard it first thing out of my car in the pre K parking lot, and last thing at the end of the day in the high school parking lot. Apparently, though, my employer was unfamiliar with the daily usage of the word.
What am I doing here?