The dog days were scorchers. Southern torture. But we found an answer to the plight.
—“Dog Days,” by the Atlanta Rhythm Section
Montene, my star student, my eager show-and-tell artist, wigged out on me this morning.
I have great room morning duty this week so I have to watch them as they come into the building and wait in the great room at the round tables before they go to homeroom. I’m standing by the main doors with my special coffee mug of people’s coffee-stained faces and I turn to the left to see what booger picking might be going on and Montene is standing a foot from me waiting to wig out on me. It’s chapter five and six weekly quiz day in her class and even though I know to expect it from her the morning of every quiz, there she is with a look on her face like she wants to kill something. Her anxiety is authentic and scary. It’s like her whole body is pressurized and bloated from it … it’s so furious that if she started crying the tears would not run down her cheeks but fly straight out and bore through the wall and through some pipes.
She says ...
I looked her in the eye and said … relax … and why don’t we just talk about this when we get in class because I’ve got some ideas. Plus, you and I do this every morning on the morning of the day you have a quiz. I’ve come to expect it.
Montene breathed out. I know, she says. She had her four hundred and twenty-eight pound backpack hanging off her back.
I don’t know why they wreck their backs every day. They have lockers. Anyway, I said I’ve got great room booger picking watch this morning so can we talk about this later. I promise you’ll be fine. You studied for it, right?
I said with a bit of firmness ... We’ll talk later.
We talked later. When she should have been outside at the mid-morning break getting whacked on the side of the head by a Frisbee or getting a nice elbow-in-the-chops-foul playing basketball or zipping ping-pong balls at each other’s heads with badminton racquets or owning somebody’s soul in four-square or huddling over by the corner of the building with the rest of the girls talking about whatever it is seventh and eighth grade girls talk about there she was a foot from me as I was sitting at my desk in the back of the classroom not knowing anybody was a foot away from me. Someone else’s personal space doesn’t mean a whole lot to Montene and that’s okay because she’s so nice. But she is so scared. If she passed out in front of me I would not be surprised.
She scrunched her face up and said what did you deciiiiiide. She sports an enormous head of blonde, squiggly hair and braces on her teeth.
I decided a long time ago that you’re going to take the quiz and that you’ll be fine.
Noooooooo! This is my favorite class and I don’t—
Exactly. You don’t want to be not perfect. You’re worried that if you don’t have a one hundred in Georgia history at any moment in time that you’re not worthy of being a history scholar or bona fide in the subject matter or whatever. The worst grades I made in college were in my major but I was unwilling to give up and change. I wanted to learn the stuff and that’s just the way it was. Listen to me … you don’t have to be perfect for this material or for me … just be real good and right now you’re real good. Real good.
Are you suuuuure?
I’m sure. Go play.
Later I watched her come into the classroom and sit down and like a swollen balloon if you would have poked her with something sharp Montene would have been all over The Cozy Room of Learning. I figured it was best to nip this one in the bud—one more time—and following my gut, knowing that most kids don’t mind being embarrassed and actually like the attention … I said everybody … Montene comes before the class and asks us to allow her to take the quiz, which we’ve been preparing for over a week, another time.
Montene looked like she was about to leap out of her desk and bite my larynx out.
So I have a question … is anybody else nervous about today’s quiz. Raise your hand.
Everybody but one kid raised their hand.
Okay. I want those who raised their hand to get up and walk over to Montene and pat her on the back and say I’m nervous about the quiz, too.
Five kids walked over one by one and patted Montene on the back and said they were nervous about the quiz, too.
Montene breathed out again. But she was still staring a hole in my forehead.
Then I told them about the new and fabulous thing called Torture Chamber and that there were a lot of kids in the past three classes who ran out of the building screaming because of the brain-melting qualities of this apocalyptic intra-class competition. I said it’s a great way to get the heebie-jeebies out before the quiz which we are definitely taking in about twenty minutes. I told them the rules. I told them how they’ll be humiliated, degraded, and embarrassed … and end up feeling wonderful and refreshed and ready. I told them about the reward for the top three point getters. And then I said, So clear your desks. First hand up. Pay attention to the question. Ready?
Very furiously, we played chapter five and six Torture Chamber.
Montene kicked their asses.
Next Entry ... October 1: Dogs Cry. They Sure Do