Student of the Week

“You sound like my mom,” K says disgustedly, “Always sayin’ my name, K, K, stop doin’ this, stop doin’ that.”

“K,” I say calmly, again, “return to your seat.” He sucks his teeth like a champion and slams his fist on the table, emphatically protesting my draconian regime of seat-sitting and keeping hands to oneself.

“Ms. M,” say three girls at triangular ends of the room, “Ms. M, I need–can I go to the–can you–but I–read this–” All three at once.

“K,” I bellow, “spit out whatever is in your mouth and sit your butt in that seat!!”

“Ms. M,” the girls start again, C always urgently, plaintively whispering, J declaiming in her trademark staccato, like a bee-bee gun.

“K, you have two choices,” I growl. “Return to your seat or stand outside with Mr. H,” the apoplectic gym teacher who does hall duty this period.

“Ms. M,” the girls continue, joined this time by a male voice: D, seven feet tall, all limbs, leaning back in his chair, defiantly chewing.

“What’re we ‘posed to be doin’?” he asks.

There are directions on the board. I have repeated them twice. I asked two students to say them back to me. I asked the class, “Yeah?” and received several tired nods. Each student has a worksheet I designed–with careful attention to font size and clarity of phrasing–in front of them with the directions in plain sight.

“Yeah, what are we supposed to be doing?” two more echo.

K has returned to the vicinity of his seat by this time, but he isn’t sitting. He is dancing and contorting his face for the rest of the class.

K has a score of about 30 in my class, 55 being failure (an F), 100 being total success (an A). Every marking period, his parents and I have a ritual: after several installments of “K needs to do his homework if he wants to pass this class,” and “K needs to control his outbursts,” I call to say, “K is failing this marking period.”

His father screams, “K!!” I pull the phone away from my ear.

“K! Get over here now! Why is Ms. M calling me to say you’re failing her class??” I can hear K in the background, whining ineffectually. His father yells a lecture at him for five or ten straight minutes. He keeps me on the phone the entire time.

Later, in the principal’s office, Mr. S, a deep-voiced grizzly bear of a man in suspenders and a tie, listens as I mention K’s latest show.

“And you know who else is in that class?” I say. “KC and A.” His jaw drops, and he guffaws. “It’s like the nightmare trifecta. I spend the whole time putting out the fires they set, I can’t teach anything.”

“They’re insane, Ms. M,” he confirms. Inside, I’m like, Huh? YOU THINK THEY’RE INSANE, TOO?

“Nuts,” I agree, because it’s usually in my best interest to agree, but I hear us going down a slippery slope.

“K is like…he’s like the Three Faces of Eve. The Three Faces of K. But it’s more than three. He’s Olivia DeHaviland!” he cries.

He hunkers down. “They won’t be in your class anymore,” he says.


“We’ll take them out. Give them a lesson to do with a supervisor, and leave it in Mr. A’s mailbox. You won’t be seeing them again.”

It’s like the principal’s mafia. “We’ll take care of him,” I picture someone in a fedora saying under a pool of street light on a desolate highway in East New York.


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