Story From The Classroom: A Severe Whooshing Sound

The following is an excerpt from my book “Things I Probably Shouldn’t Have Said And Other Faux Pas”. Buy a copy on Amazon.

Teaching a lesson yesterday, and while facing the board, the noise stops. Returning to the board, the noise escalates.

I immediately become angry. "Shit," I mutter and launch for the call button on the wall directly connected to the disciplinarian's office. I turn to the class. It's Spring. We're all fatigued. It's time to go home. I see that. Know that. But, damn, the noise must have been created on purpose. Who made that noise?

"Somebody better fess up before the office responds," I say. Almost immediately, a boy in the front row meekly raises his hand. "It was, ummmm, me." He looks mortified. As if I had just told him he has a few seconds to live.

But, I know the student: he's not malicious. Maybe has a penchant for destruction, but certainly not hell-bent on making my life miserable. "So," I say. "Why are you making those whooshing noises?! I can't think straight."

I feel like Ludwig Wittgenstein who would get angry easily in the classroom. But, he was teaching kindergarten (a worldclass philosopher) and I'm a ninth grade English teacher. A flawed one at that. The student says, "I didn't realize."

The intercom blares, "Yes? May I help you?" "No, I say. I'm good. Got it under control." Clicks off. The class sighs. The student perks up a bit, "I thought you were going to kill me, for a second." I laugh. In a good way. The class laughs. As if it had been a huge practical joke.

"That noise felt like it was destroying my thoughts."

"I didn't know I was making any noise," he says. The kid smiles, as if he knows what he's saying. Nods. The class is chatting.

I say, "OK. As I was saying." We go on with the lesson. I'm over it. The class isn't. The kid can't help himself. "You need a hug?"

"No, I'm good. Just put your pen out of your mouth. OK?"

After class, I feel bad. Silly, even. "I'm sorry," I say. He smiles, puts on my prop hat I use for Of Mice and Men.

"You scared me for a second, Mr. Roselli. I thought I was going to get in trouble. Usually when you're mad, you still have a smile on your face. Here, Mr. Roselli, have a hand sandwich." He shakes my hand like I shake theirs, with both hands like a sandwich.

Even if he did mean it, I realize I reacted swiftly. I scared the kid. Good thing he really didn't mean it.

Well, now I know where that whooshing sound's been coming from all year. Maybe he'll finally stop. He picks up his slugger stick -- apparently a colloquialism for baseball bat. Exits. He comes back in, with masking tape and a sign, "Please do not touch." He puts it over the intercom.

"Funny," I say. "Now, go home."

Tomorrow'll be another fiasco. They crowd me in like Children of the Corn. Make horrible comments on a social networking site. But, today is a good day. A students tells me she likes poetry, thinks about the meaning of the lyrics. One student wrote a poem about being adopted.

One observation about ninth graders: they remember in spurts. Just like me bolting for the button. One girl pipes up, "I remember what a hyperbole is?!" Good, I think, I feel like one right now. The boy with the pen makes sure he puts away his pen.

"You'll miss us when you're gone?" I don't answer. Just smile. "You know you love us."

And I guess I do. Let someone else mind the gap. Teach tone and imagery, gerunds, infinitives and first person point of view. Today, I want peace of mind. A kid laughs when another kid talks about "reading for pleasure." As if he's coding for a dirty word. "Y'all are sick." I say that instead of saying, stop being immature. I scan the classroom before the bell rings. I sometimes wonder why I am here. Where will they be?

Have seeds been planted? But, who needs a mentor? We need a teacher. But, who wants to be taught? The apple-faced kids? I turn out the lights, take my tie off. I hate wearing this stuff.

The hallways become quiet. I'm leaving soon. On to something else. I'm giving a workshop on Google Docs.

It's time. I knew this even before I began. I have given my two years. A few more weeks left. Finals. Summer. "Yes," I say. I will miss them. But, I long for New York more. I wonder if I'll see my students in the future? I wonder what we'll learn?

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