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  • After I graduated college I signed up to be a substitute teacher. One day, not soon after I began, I got a phone call in the early morning telling me they needed a sub for a high school AP history class. However, when I arrived they had assigned two subs for the class, so I spent the day shuttling around between different classes, first period there, second period over there, and I had a couple periods were I had nothing to do but sit in the teacher’s lounge. It was a rather boring day. For the final class of the day, sixth period, they gave me a PE class. I was happy with that, PE classes are easy, you throw out the balls and you let them play, no worries.

    Sixth period came around and I went out to the PE area, to the blacktop outside of the locker rooms. It was 2PM on a hot, hot summer Riverside day, sweaty and dirty and smoggy and miserable. I stepped out onto the blacktop and I look at my kids, and this is like gangsta PE. Like Dangerous Minds Coach Carter, and immediately I was intimidated. In high school I was a fat, church-going drama geek. This was not my clique; these were kids who would kick my ass.

    I looked around and noticed the other PE teachers, to see how they ran their class, and they were the football coaches, the wrestling coaches, tough and muscular and tanned with tight shorts accentuating their bulges and whistles around their necks, very masculine individuals that projected complete authority. I looked at them and I looked at my students and I’m a geek, surrounded by bullies. I decide I have to establish my authority; I have to show both the students and the coaches that I am a man, that I am as strong and tough and as in control as any of them.

    My students stood on their numbers on the blacktop, waiting for me to take roll. In an authoritative voice I belted out “Everybody sit down on your numbers!” They all looked at me like they couldn’t comprehend what I was saying and did nothing. “Sit down now!” louder, was my reply to their inaction. “But the blacktop is too hot, we’ll burn our butts.” I imagine all the other man-coaches watching me and the students sizing me up and testing me. So I got louder and more forceful – “Sit your butts down!” They sat on the burning blacktop and I took roll. And they sat and waited until we were alone, away from the man-coaches.

    My class got the gym. We entered, I let the basketballs out and I figured my work is done, let them shoot some hoops. However, immediately, the kids started to seriously start to fuck with the sub. One group ran over to the stands that were pushed back against the wall and started pulling them out. I run over and bark “Stop doing that! Put those back!” Then another group starts shooting the balls into the hoops along the side of the court that have not been brought down for use, trying to get the balls caught. So I run over there - “Stop that! Don’t do that!” Then there was this little kid, who seemed much too small to be in high school, but with an over-sized chip on his shoulder, and he began to mouth-off. “You’re a jerk! You don’t know what you’re doing!” I told him to shut up and sit down but instead he got louder and more obnoxious. I couldn’t get the kid to calm down, which made me more and more irritated. I felt the class completely spinning out of control, and I began to lose control of myself. I began to feed off the energy in the room, and I started to fall to the level of emotional maturity of the class. Except I was not a high school kid, and I knew how to take it all do a different level. OK, you all want to play, fine, but you’re all amateurs.

    A group of girls opened a gym door and went outside. I ran after them outside and went off - “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!!! DON’T BE PULLING THIS FUCKING SHIT!!! GET YOUR FUCKING ASS BACK INSIDE RIGHT NOW!!!” Stunned, they came back inside but one of the girls, a big, overweight one with big hair that added six inches to her height and a face covered in pancake makeup and red lipstick stood close to me and wagged her finger right at my nose violently yelling “You can’t talk to us like that! Who do you think you are?” I calmly kissed her finger. That shut her up, and the girls just stared at me in stunned, frozen. Rational thought had left me. I was working on fear, anger, and adrenaline. There was no hesitation, there was only action. I had embraced the dark side.

    The little obnoxious kid was running around the gym with untold energy, yelling insults and trying to pull out stands. I chased after him and grabbed him, wrapping my fist around his collar and throwing him down on the stands he had pulled out. The smallest kid, the weakest, the one with the most obvious problems. But I’m not thinking about this. “You just fucking shut up and fucking sit there!” and I stormed right out of the gym. I left, and went wandering around the campus for one of the yard guys, the big hallway bosses. I found one and dragged him up to the little kid, “Get this kid out of here, take him away” and off they went.

    Eventually, of course, the class did come to an end. Classes let out, the last class of the day, and I begin to walk right across the middle of the quad across its entire length to the parking lot, with all the students out and milling about. About thirty yards away the little kid appeared, yelling at me across the quad, amongst all the students.

    “YOU FAGGOT!!! YOU FAGGOT!!!” he yelled at me at the top of his lungs, calling me something I hadn’t been called since my drama geek days. “YOU FAGGOT!!!” Over and over again, as loud as he could. So I responded, using my number one weapon, my voice. I don’t care how loud you can get, I can get louder. I can take it to the next level.

    “THAT’S RIGHT LITTLE BOY, I’M A FAGGOT!!! AND I’M GOING TO FOLLOW YOU HOME, GREASE YOU UP, AND SHOW YOU HOW MUCH OF A FAGGOT I AM!!! I’M GOING TO BEND YOU OVER AND SHOVE MY BIG STIFF COCK UP YOUR TIGHT LITTLE ASS AND IT’S GOING TO FEEL SOOOO GOOD!!! I’M GONNA MAKE YOU MY LITTLE FAGGOT BITCH!!!” And I verbally abused him for the minute or so it took me to walk across the crowded campus, amongst students and teachers, completely breaking the kid down to where his whole body shrank and he buried his head between his shoulders, staring down at the ground as he shuffled slowly across the quad. And no one did anything.

    I was fired from the entire school district. Of course, I just went to work in a different district. Did I act in a deplorable, reprehensible manner? Yes, and nothing like that happened again. However this is something that I have remembered quite clearly some fifteen years later. And that kid, and what I did to him, is still stuck in my head. I have learned how to project authority in the classroom a positive manner. I have learned not to take myself so seriously. I have learned how to use my voice in class for good, not evil. And I don't teach high school.
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