The pop star Rhianna almost killed me this week.
Background information necessary for this post to make sense: I changed jobs this year. Long version here. Short version: I taught Spanish for a long-ass time. Now I’m aninstructional coach. Hopefully also for a long-ass time, as I’m nowhere near retirement and continue to enjoy having a paycheck, mainly for the benefits it provides. Like eating. And buying underwear. Things which, I suppose, would not have been necessary had Rhianna succeeded in doing me in.
“Shine bright like a diamond…” she whined, as I drove down the highway on my way home from work.
“Paul!” I gasped, then blacked out and drove into a cornfield.
My years in the classroom have left me with a rare form of PTSD. Doctors describe it as a strange combination of Stockholm Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSSSD, if you will, combined with an unnatural attachment to teenagers. Unexpected sounds and movements startle me. Then cause hallucinations of being trapped in a cinderblock classroom with thirty adolescents which, when combined with drives down an interstate, result in unplanned forays into cornfields.
“Shine bright like diamond!” I heard every five minutes, every day, for all first semester last year.
During the Do Now: “Mumble, mumble…write….mumble, mumble…Shine bright like a diamond!”
During transitions: “Where’s my group? Oh, here. Hi guys! Shine bright like a diamond!”
On test questions: Q. “Describe the picture below including at least 5 new vocabulary words.” A. “Shine bright like a diamond! Oh no, wait…brillar like un diamando!”
Leaving the class: “Time for fifth period! Shine bright like a diamond!”
“Can we please lay off the ‘shine bright like a diamond’ for a bit?”
“Shine bright like a diamond!”
At the time, I thought it was just simple teenage shenanigans, a biological urge that accompanies the onset of adolescent hormones and forcing these “young adults” to drive the not-so-young adults in their lives absolutely batty.
Little did I know they were slowly brainwashing me. Wrapping me up in their sneaky teenage exasperation-inducing tentacles from which I would never escape.
Twelve years of torture and multiple Rhianna songs later, it hit me.
I can’t live without them.
Teenagers, that is. Could live without Rhianna songs. Definitely could live without Rhianna songs.
It’s not that I don’t love my new job. I do. It’s new, it’s refreshing, it’s a challenge. And it’s full of crap. Literally.
“How’s it going, Ron?” I ask a first year PE teacher.
“I’m having pooping problems.”
Pause. Consider the context.
“I’m going to assume it’s actually your students that are having the pooping problem…”
“They’re pooping their pants?”
“No. The floor.”
Pause. Attempt to visualize.
“They’re removing their pants to poop on the floor?”
“No. The poop is falling out of their pants onto the floor.”
Oh. Of course. That makes much more sense.
“When you say pants plural we’re talking about…”
“Five to fifth grade.”
Open computer. Peruse coaching files.
Classroom management…Curriculum…Time Management…Student Engagement… nope, no Pooping Students resources.
Get out To-Do list. Add “Strategies for Pooping Students.”
Damn. I’ve got a long way to go before I’m a Master Coach. Maybe that’s why I’m missing my teenagers so much. At least with them I knew they were so unpredictable that I didn’t have a prayer of knowing all the answers. Nor did they particularly care what I said so I could just blab at the mouth, say something dumb, and look like I knew what I was doing.
“I just stapled a hole in my finger.”
“Because I was bored.”
“Are you bored now?”
“No. I’m in pain.”
“Problem solved! Go sit down.” What the hell else am I supposed to say to that?
Or maybe it’s just the Stockholm Syndrome part of my disorder kicking in making me feel attached to the very captors who brainwashed me to begin with. Either way, I’ve realized I’m going to have to find a way to be with those weirdos we call adolescents – be it volunteering, night classes, or just harassing my parent-of-teenager friends. I mean, who wouldn’t offer to ship their sassy sixteen year old off to me for a day or two?
In the meantime, however, I’m now responsible for a whole group of new teachers to whom I’m supposed to provide words of wisdom and useful tidbits of advice. I look at Ron, who sits smiling back at me seemingly unfazed by the feces. Perhaps, I realize, this is his version of finger-stapling.
“You know, Ron,” I say, “after many years in the classroom, I’ve discovered that sometimes…when the going gets poopy you just have to take the words of Rhianna and…”
“Shine bright like a diamond?” he asks, knowingly.