Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Got the call from Academy again today.

Last week, I got a call around 8:05 to substitute for a history teacher. I spent the day proctoring her exams. At one point, as the kids, Juniors, were studying for their exam, asking one another questions, I volunteered a few clearer explanations. Who was Alfred Thayer Mahan, etc. One of the kids turned around to me and asked "Did you used to be a history teacher?" I thought about it for a second, and then nodded my answer. Yea, I used to be a history teacher.

It was weird as hell to proctor someone else's exams. I wanted to lecture. I was itching to get back into the game, but I had fun, as I always do. I sat there, as you see in the picture above, while the kids studied. But then, when I'd get up and walk around to the front of the class to tell them to put their stuff away and get ready to take the test, the inevitable surprised stares and questions would begin.

"Oh my God, how tall are you?" I guess I don't look this freakishly big when I'm sitting behind a desk. "Did you play basketball? Football?" I get it all the time. Some little boy or girl will usually look up and say something like "Oh my God, you make me look like a midget." It used to embarrass me, back when I was their age. Back then, all I wanted was to hide and be invisible. But I've long ago made peace with all that and learned to enjoy the notoriety. It's always fun to joke about it now, and even to use it to flirt now and then. I wish I'd been this self assured all those decades ago.

I used it in San Saba, asserting a strong personae by just playing the role that was made for me. Being the biggest guy in the place. It was, and usually is, the first perception people have of me. Profiling is wrong, I suppose, but it's been a factor in my life for as long as I can remember. The first day I walked into the prison, the Windham School District Principle decided he knew who I was with one look and said something like "Now we have someone who can stand up to Wittaker." I didn't know what that meant, but I knew I didn't like it.

It turned out Wittaker was a big guard who kind'a ran the education building, or at least acted like he did. An ex-drill instructor, he took great pleasure in making the prisoners nervous. I used to love having him around. He'd just walk by and the youthful offenders would shut up and stand quietly. It was beautiful. He turned out to be a cool guy, with a hilarious sense of humor. We ended up getting along fine.

In the end, Wittaker and I became friends, and I missed him a lot when he had himself transferred to a jail in Gatesville. I think he was sick of all the fat female guards in San Saba, and the wardens duplicity, and he felt like he would have a better chance to really bust some heads in Gatesville. I missed him when he left, and I guess I tried to emulate some of his swagger, playing the roll of a more benign tough guy, to keep the "offenders" in line while they were in my class. It was an easy role to play, and it worked beautifully. I got to where I enjoyed the hell out of it. The prisoners and I had fun with it.

One day, an young offender stopped across the hall from me, standing in the door to another classroom. He looked up to me (they're mostly little skudders), scowled and said "You're not that big Wilson." I smiled, leaning in the doorway of my own classroom. "You better bring a gun!" Everyone laughed. The prisoner smiled, laughed and went into his class. That was the atmosphere. It was maybe the first time in my life I felt comfortable in my own skin, posturing and embracing my size. I loved it, probably because I knew the actual chances of any kind of altercation were very slim. It was all just for fun, and everyone seemed to know that.

Once, I had two offenders standing up to one another in class, posturing closely, silently pretending to threaten one another. I could see that it was all clearly a pose. It was the kind of thing that went on all the time, usually as they were coming and going from the pencil sharpener. I waited for one of them to look up to me and said, again, while leaning casually against the doorway, "SO much sexual tension in this room." Both offenders turned red and laughed. God, I used to love that job.

Of course, that tough guy personae may have been the thing that did me in in the end. The "joke" I played on one prisoner, giving him a little shove one day on a sidewalk, was used by that prisoner, and maybe the Warden too, to toss me out of the jail and send my career into the twilight zone. Of course, it was blogging about it all that gave people on Ft. Hood the fuel they used to really screw me, but that story's not over yet.

The latest move in the drama has been to send a letter to the Army, asking them to explain their position in the whole thing. Did they in fact conclude that I was a danger to students, ban me from the base, and then escort me off the base? And if so, why? The college is still saying that I'm banned, and is using the shove and the blog post to assert that I'm somehow a danger to students.

It's all an amazing load of crap, and everyone who knows me knows it is. Thing is, the Dean who canned me has known me for 15 years, so it's hard to explain what would motivate him to stick to such an spurious assertion. But we'll find out in the end.

Meanwhile, the folks in Academy called me again today. They want me to come in tomorrow morning and substitute for a Spanish teacher. That should be interesting, seeing as how I can only really cuss in Spanish. Once again, back in the saddle, somewhat. I've got chores to do today, tryin' to get my trimmer and edgers fixed. I also have plans to visit an old friend and colleague who's been put in assisted living in Temple.

So, y'all be good, and I'll keep plodding along. Maybe some day I'll have good news to tell. Cheers.


*Goddess* said...

No matter what, you look good sitting behind that desk...where you belong:).

Kenneth said...

Isn't most conflict just that - posturing and embracing some real or imagined advantage - and the real collision usually more an accidental stumble than a willing lunge? From convicts posing in their niche to the people at Ft. Hood doing the same in theirs, the dance itself has very little to do with why they are dancing.
No offense intended because I admire this in you, but one can be frighteningly confident and too adept for certain positions.

BRUNO said...

No problem explaining the deans'-motivation: After 15-years of "buddy-ism", you've suddenly become a threat to his daily "cake-walk" of that six-figure salary of his. Times are gettin' tougher by the day, and our higher-ups are desperately looking for "fresh-meat", to throw under the bus. YOU are STRONGER, WITTIER, YOUNGER---more universally-ACCEPTED, and LIKED. Probably more than he has been/ever will be in his life.

In other words---you're a THREAT to his authority/future evaluations of his position, in his-view.

You're a GOOD-man, a BIG-one in MANY ways other than size. But, just like Mr. Spock in the original Star-Trek series: You're too damned LOGICAL, for your own good!(Except you're obviously NOT a plant---you're more like a baby-beef!☺)

Just MY-opinion, ONLY, here.

KENNETH, above, says it MUCH-more eloquently than I could ever hope to.

But if you combine mine with what he says above, I think you'll see things start to fall-into place---even though you're not gonna like the picture, after the puzzle is done...

Kenneth said...

Bruno you said exactly what I was thinking without the high school book report fluff I am stuck on using. I write everything like I'm trying to get a good grade. You get to the point and turn it in.

FHB said...

How cool is this. i can blog from the high school while I'm subbing. Love WiFi.

Goddess - I do. I make this shit look good. And the kids are better, so far, than they were back in the late '80s, when last I subbed.

Kenneth - Yea, I think I was too open, and too trusting. But I can't help bein' who I am. Just sayin', it's been an education.

Bruno - Oh hell, I'll roll with the punches. I don't think that everything happens for a reason. But shit does happen, and it's all about how we deal with it. Learn and move on. having said that, I do keep thinking that I'm gonna wake up some time and all this bizarre shit will turn out to be a nightmare. No chance of that though.

BRUNO said...

Aww, hell, JEFF---just wait 'til you get a little-older still. You'll turn out to be a FINE-example of a prick and an asshole someday, just like us "normal"-folks! That "nice-shit" wears thin fast!

KENNETH: That's because YOU have more class than I do! YOU make people think, and sigh with relief.

I make people remember, and then cuss-me for it....!!!

GUYK said...

Maybe that sub job will turn into a full time job. Hell, teaching teens is not so bad if you happen to get a bunch that know how to read