First off... I'm listening to WOXY and Wolf Parade's "Fine Young Cannibals" is playing, and it's a fine young song, it is, but in no way (as far as I can tell) does it reference the late-'80s pop band of the same name. I don't remember Wolf Parade being this guitar-y... but, boy-howdy, do I enjoy this song.
Whoops, now the song is the very-excellent "Last Days" by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Nice guitar tone — a bit aggressive, but still rather jangly. I dig it.
Anyway, on with our (ir)regularly-scheduled rant.
Once in a while, we have to fill in for a half-period in someone else's class if that teacher is gone for part of a day; this is called an "on-call" coverage. I was in for a math teacher a couple of weeks ago and dealt with a grade 9 class who were, shall we say, not entirely enthralled with the subject (which is certainly true for a goodly number of 14- and 15-year-olds).
But, we seemed to muddle our way through the topic which was left by the teacher alright — fractions and percentages and decimals, if memory serves — and when it was time for me to leave, I even got the, "Hey, c'mon, stay for the rest of the class!", which is always nice.
Fast-forward to a couple of days ago... same class, similar on-call (or so I thought). There was a girl in the class both times, who was one of the first to arrive in the classroom, and who was, well, pretty loud. I can handle loud kids, if they're nice, for half-period stretches, so this was no big deal.
"If they're nice" is the key phrase in the above paragraph, if you couldn't already tell. The girl in question (whose name escapes me, but let's call her Laura) was eager and fun the first time I had to deal with her, and I genuinely enjoyed having her in the room to liven things up a bit, even if she tended to dominate the place (which I imagine was her goal).
The second time, this past week... well, suffice it to say we weren't quite as lucky. The class started off by writing a quiz, and then afterward I tried to lead them through the lesson, which involved finding the volume of a pyramid, and yes, it's as boring as it sounds, which is why I'm glad I teach science and physics, because we usually do something interesting.
As I was going through the ins and outs of pyramids and such, I heard what sounded like music coming through headphones. We have a pretty solid rule about not allowing these things in class (and even more solid when the teacher's talking), but I couldn't tell where it was coming from, and it was driving me crazy. Eventually I asked Laura if it was her.
Me: "Do you know where that music is coming from?"
Laura: [takes one earphones out of her ear] "Yeah, it's me."
Me: "Could you please put that away? I'm trying to do a lesson here."
Laura: "Well then, go ahead, teach your lesson." [waves her hand dismissively at me, then puts earphone back in and goes on doing what she was doing before]
Now, I'm not normally a hardass. I pick my battles, I roll with the punches, I care about the things that matter and don't care about things that don't. I joke with the kids, including openly musing about who in the class and/or which principal or vice-principal I could beat up, and who could beat me up, in a no-rules back-alley street brawl. But, as you might be able to tell (again), this really, really got to me.
Verbal fireworks ensued, as they sometimes do with a combatant who has a chip on her shoulder the size of metropolitan Cleveland. I could actually feel my blood pressure rising, which I haven't experienced in a good long while in a classroom. Finally, after some jabs were exchanged, a guy in the front row (who I gathered had some experience dealing with Laura) got my attention and said, "Sir, trust me... it's not worth it with this one."
(Aside: girls are a hundred times harder to deal with than boys, in situations like this. When you get some girl lipping-off, it's practically by-definition that they know how throw verbal haymakers that perfectly lodge under your skin. Guys who feel like they want to take a teacher on are usually too stupid to realize that they'll always lose to anyone who has a decent amount of comeback-skill; I don't think I've conceded defeat to a male student yet, and it's been eight years.)
At the end, what could I do but laugh it off? I wasn't going to stand there and argue with her, because her sense of logic and mine clearly don't intersect anywhere. It's like trying to talk to an evangelical, biblical-literalist Christian: you can make well-reasoned arguments until you're blue in the face, and in the end nobody gets converted either way.
The kid in the front row was right. It's not worth it.
And thus ends another stupid chapter in my ridiculous career in which I have a graduate degree but have to stand for the national anthem for approximately 65 seconds every morning.