My school had an established universal signal meant to garner instant silence whenever a teacher so required. It was done in kindergarten, it was done in middle and high school, and—I caustically informed my class—it was even done in staff meetings.
You, the authority figure in the room, are supposed to raise your hand. Thereafter everyone else is meant to quiet down and do the same. A successful signal is fully effective in seconds. My signals took minutes at best and would flat-out be ignored at worst. Of course, there were the poor kids who I can only compare to Hermione—their hands would shoot up and stay shot up as I leaned against the SmartBoard for spinal support.
I can’t keep my hand raised. Doing it at all peeves my pinched nerve. It’s the same reason I can’t use a stress ball (tl;dr: an administrator noticed my fidget and recommended one, I tried to use it, my back screeched. Next time, I’ll go for the cube).
Minutes into an attempted signal, I once barked a frustrated, “Do you guys know you’re physically hurting me right now? I have an injured shoulder and this awesome thing called carpal tunnel and this is literally putting me in pain.”
It shut them down for the day.
Not so the next time I signaled. But at least one of the Hermiones cried out, “Guys! Quiet down! I’m gonna get purple tunnel!”
Bless him, really.
Warning: May cause more stress than it dissolves.
“Well,” says Mustafa, frowning deeply, “that sure was a semester.”
Yusuf blinks up from the conference table, where he and MH have spread out playmats, newly determined to complete a match before the girls finally arrive. “That’s putting it mildly, ya akhi.”
“Look,” says Mustafa, then breathes audibly, a relaxation technique identifiable from December’s pre-finals de-stressing event. “I’m trying this new thing where I only highlight positivity, alright?”
Muhammad snorts and dispassionately sets two cards face-down, gaze shuffling between Yusuf’s field, Mustafa’s erratic pacing, and his own hand of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. “Donald Trump is going to be President of the United States in, like, three weeks,” he says. “It’s not like the coming of the Hour is news.”
“Oh, my God,” Mustafa says, and stares with saucer-eyes at nothing, like he’s seeing the idea manifest in front of him. “I need to sit down.”
So I spent a brief period of time as a middle school teacher.
Loved the kids beyond words.
Made a style guide for their quizzes, tests, and worksheets.
Taught a lesson on Avatar: the Last Airbender; beat and got beaten at snacktime Duel Monsters.
Stressed about how I wasn’t giving them my best, or that I wasn’t the best for them, which I felt they deserved.
Maybe sorta had a nervous breakdown?
As I suspected, it wasn’t for me.
I’ve always said my heart never truly left middle school.
Three weeks into the Fall 2015 semester and five minutes into the day’s class, a new student trudged into my senior seminar.
“Are you signed up?” we asked.
“Have been since last semester,” he answered, and glanced demurely at the notes on his neighbor’s desk. The professor had gone to retrieve something from his office. “We already finished a book, didn’t we?”
We nodded. He sighed, scratching the back of his neck.
“Just had two surgeries,” he said, “and it’s my girlfriend’s birthday, so right after this I gotta book it to New York. I missed the first sessions and used up all my absences in every single class.”
“So, you know,” he continued, “life is good.”