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13 January 2008

You Put The Load Right on Me

You know that song "The Weight", by The Band, where the narrator comes to town only to seek some rest, and instead ends up dealing with a variety of eccentrics and becomes burdened by everything from dog-sitting to the Devil himself? Well, that was me on Friday.

It was Friday, after all, and my only big duty for the day was to proctor a state geometry exam in the morning, and then maybe, maybe do a little final exam grading of my own, if I felt like it (grades aren't due for another nine days or so). It should have been a peaceful, low-key day. But as soon as I got into my room, before I could even head out for my proctoring, a (now) last semester student was in the doorway, and I could tell she wasn't quite herself. So, I cut to the chase fairly quickly - "Is something wrong?"

"Well, in the last two days I've lost all my friends except two."

"What did you do?"

"I don't know, exactly. Everyone just wants to talk crap about me all the sudden, and one of them said they shouldn't talk to me anymore, and so they aren't."

"Well, maybe things will look much different a couple of weeks from now. And at least you will know who your real friends are by then. Now, I've got to go, but I promise I'll still talk to you next time you stop by, o.k.?"

"O.k."

And, I'm off the the geometry exam. It is scheduled for 150 minutes, after the preliminary pre-test activities, directions etc., but the state allows up to four hours for the test. So, it took 30 minutes to get everyone in place and started, and then, want to guess how long it took the last girl to finish? Yep - 3 hrs., and 50 minutes. That would be a total of 4 1/2 hours, roughly, that I couldn't do anything but stare at the walls, walk about the room, sit for a spell, and then rinse and repeat. I also couldn't go pee during that time, and my bladder ain't so hot.

And there was this: in the middle of the exam, a girl (these were freshmen), raised her hand. I was closest by, and kneeled down to her, noticing she had a stricken look on her face.

"Yes, ma'am."

"I can't do this. I just can't do it"

"What's wrong? Do you need to go to the bathroom?"

"No. I'm having a panic attack [starts breathing rapidly]. I just want to leave."

"O.k. We'll call a principal to come get you. Just put your head down and take deep breaths."

"O.k."

So, I stayed beside her until they came and got the poor thing, and thought about how doubly embarrassing that would be for a 15 year-old.

Speaking of youngsters, the administrator for the exam is exactly 23, and while sweet, is wrapped a bit tightly herself. There is a sort of sad back story for her - she is brilliant, which one can tell after just a short conversation with her. She graduated from this same high school five years ago, and was editor of the yearbook. Apparently she spent much of her senior year crying, especially when it dawned on her, once and for all, that there are mean, nasty people in the world who cannot be changed or reasoned with. She then went on to finish college early, and apparently found time somehow to squeeze in a marriage and a divorce. In any case, she was a bit on edge the entire testing session, but by the end I could tell she was not feeling well. Turned out she had an awful headache, and she was barely able to communicate by the time we were done. She seems like such an interesting, bright person, and yet like a Tennessee Williams heroine, so fragile - only at a much earlier age.

For dessert, I topped the day off by going to luch with colleagues, where I heard about one teachers' father dying when she was in eighth grade and her mother's subsequent emotional disappearance during the ensuing high school years. I heard stories about rampant drug abuse during the teen and college years of another teacher, who also talked about the lonely weekend he had ahead of him. I heard what I would term "soft gossip" about the totally screwed-up lives of a few other colleagues not present. And to top it off, when I returned to school I had to talk with three desperate students whose grades are near failing in my class, all wanting to know what they can do at this late date, and all filling me with a sense of dread when I consider their futures in the adult world. By the end of the day, I simply wanted a long nap, followed by a long night's sleep.

Now of course the pretense of this post is that I am the normal one (even with my pissed-off bladder), surrounded by bureaucratic nonsense, weird personalities, and the emotionally traumatized. Trust me, I'm quite certainly a weirdo in my own right, and I've had my own emotional traumas over the years (though, they never played out in public, due to my certifiable Southerness, which grants me tremendous natural abilities in the areas of repression and stoicism). Plus it's in my nature to listen and try to help others when presented with the opportunity - I can't take much credit for the way I was made. So I'm no saint or martyr. Still, there are days when enough is enough (or is that the Devil talking?).

Anyway, guess what song I dialed up on my iPod Friday evening?

4 comments:

Jimmy said...

When I read a blog, if I can find one or two things that scream to me "great writer", it's been time well spent reading that blog.

This most recent post had ten or twelve of those "Damn, I wish I had written that" moments, and I am in awe.

When I read parts to Anne this morning when we were in the middle of getting 3 boys ready for school, and she doesn't stop me with a "Really? Now?", you cannot achieve higher praise.

I am in awe sir.

School Master P said...

Thanks, JR - you made my afternoon. Check's in the mail!

You write very well yourself, you know.

Belle said...

I've had several days like this myself recently. When you are the minister, and not the ministered-to, it is a special burden and one that is indeed weighty. Enjoy some down time this weekend and recharge.

Also, that poor girl! I just read the New Yorker article about the MySpace-related suicide and I am not happy with the state of American teenhood.

Belle said...
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