• Michelle

Afternoon coffee

A cup of coffee would be good right about now, only a couple of hours still left in the work week. On Friday afternoons, don't your muscles get a little heavy and you begin to hear the faint siren call of social media luring you away from work? I mean, what could you possibly get done before the weekend? Let's go grab a cup of joe.

This is a feeling I had almost every day when I worked in a corporate office. (confession)

I NEVER felt like that working at a high school. Not once. Okay, maybe PSAT day, when the whole damned place is quiet and focused for hours at a time and you just want to run screaming down the perfectly sleepy hallway. In a high school, you have plenty enough afternoon adrenaline. The delivery system is teenagers rather than Starbucks.

For example, I feel that a deer gutting knife can put a jump in my step as effectively as a Venti espresso.

So I was in my office talking to the vice principal and the college counselor about some upcoming events we had to plan, and Frank, a social studies teacher, stuck his head in the door, saw we were talking, and left. Frank popped in twice more before his final time at 4:30pm. He said "I'm about to go home for the day, but before I do I think you should have this knife I confiscated on today's field trip." Three pairs of administrators' eyes widened as he placed a blaze orange camouflaged deer knife on my desk and pushed it toward me with one finger. (Adrenaline delivered.) "It belongs to Johnny," he said. "Nobody was hurt," he added and left. My day ended in the staccato rush of predictions of what happened, observations of Johnny's latest behavior, and research: what was his first class tomorrow how are his grades anyone know of family issues?

The next day, we talked to Johnny. He told us the following: The field trip was to the French Quarter and a courthouse, a combination history and civics lesson. The knife was a Christmas gift from Johnny's father, to be used on father/son hunting trips. Johnny, a peaceful, quiet kid with a nonexistent discipline record, knew the crime rate in the French Quarter was far higher than in his suburban neighborhood outside of New Orleans. For years, he'd heard family members talk of the dangers of the French Quarter. So he put his knife in his pocket that day for self defense. However, as his school bus full of classmates approached the courthouse, their first destination, and the teacher told them they'd be walking through metal detectors, Johnny said he panicked. Suddenly he realized he could go to jail, and he felt stupid thinking he could protect his classmates with a knife. So Johnny tugged on his teacher's shirt at the back of the line. "I don't know what to do with this" he said and showed the orange blade to Frank. The other students were already in line to pass through the metal detector, two uniformed police officers screened each student one at a time. Frank took the knife and stashed it in nearby bushes outside of the courthouse. They entered and went on with the field trip. Frank retrieved the knife on the way out and held it until 4:30, when he placed it on my desk.

Really? What am I supposed to do with THAT!? This kid, 15 years old and naive, clearly wasn't hoping to hurt his classmates. In fact, he had delusions of grandeur; he was the superman who would fight the big city Evil they could face in the course of their adventures.

I spoke to other students who were on the trip, and none of them knew anything about the knife. The other teachers didn't even know what happened. It was a quiet, sort of sweet event between a teacher and his student. It didn't affect the field trip at all. When we met with Johnny and his parents to inform them of what happened at the courthouse, parents and child were embarrassed to the point of red faces and whispered apologies through choked-back tears, a sufficient and logical consequence for the situation. Johnny signed a contract in front of his parents agreeing that one more major offense would result in his immediate dismissal, but we all knew there wouldn't be another one.

Hey sleepy head. Looking for the gentle buzz and heightened alertness of a cup of coffee?  Consider the possibility that a mouthy teenager, a deer knife, or a crashed software system is sometimes just as lovely. #coffeebreak

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