So, I work in a grade school (JK through 6). I’m an educational assistant. This can and does mean many different things, depending on the day or even the time of day. The first month or two I spent at my school, I was in a kinder class focussing on a particular child. As his behaviour stabilized, more or less, I began spending more time with the grade school kids.
My first day out of the kinder class, I was pointed in the direction of a grade 2 student, let’s call him Randall. Randall was refusing to participate in an outdoor activity and was out of sight of the teachers. The principal asked me to bring Randall in to the office. I wandered over to Randall and asked him how he was doing. He growled at me and climbed in to a bush. “Tough morning, huh?” Another growl and some thrown leaves. I Introduced myself. “I’m Mr. Geoff. You might not know who I am cuz I’ve been hanging out in the kindergarten classes.” Hissing and then a growl. “Hmm. What’s your name?” Silence. “Listen boss, you don’t actually have to tell me your name, but it’d be a load easier for having a conversation.” Silence. “Don’t want to tell me huh?” A very low and small “No.” “Totally ok dude. The only problem is that I’ll have to make up a name for you if I can’t find out your real name.” I explained that having an invented name for him would be better for me than simply referring to him as “that kid in the bushes.” “So, yeah… not doing so well this morning, I guess.” Silence. “Anyways, the boss asked me to walk you to the office. I guess you don’t really want to be doing all this fun stuff so we figured you could use a break.” I told him he could have a minute to think it over. When the minute was up I tried to get him to come out of the bush. “Come on Steve. Seriously, aren’t there mosquitoes and stuff in there?” “My name’s not Steve.” he tells me. “Oh, I know that Steve, but you won’t tell me your real name, so I’m stuck calling you Steve. You kinda look like a Steve.” (He doesn’t actually look like a Steve.) “Anyway, Steve, we should head in. The principal said to me “Mr. Geoff, go bring Steve in.” So I think we should go. I hear they have a very nice office here, we should check it out.” He came out of the bushes, trying hard not to laugh and looking rather confused, and began to walk in the other direction from the office. Of course, I walked with him. “Where we going Steve?” Silence. We wandered the yard for few minutes and then her pipes up, “My name isn’t Steve.” I agreed with him and again told him that I didn’t want to be rude and call him “Hey You.” That got a smile. “Look Steve, we can check in at the office and let the principal know that you’re with me and that you aren’t missing and then ask her if you can just head to class, I mean you did get out of the bushes and you are letting me call you Steve, so you know…” I began to walk towards the office and Steve followed.
Just before we got to the main office, he turned to me and said “My name’s Randall.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you Randall, but I still think you look like a Steve.” This got an actual laugh to go with the smile. By this point, all the anger that he’d had, seemed to have faded away. We talked to the principal for a minute and then I walked him to class. Once there, I said “It was pleasure hanging with you Steve. See ya later.” He threw me a wave and said “See ya later Bob.” I laughed my ass off.
That was around October. Every day I’d greet Steve and he’d call me Bob. We confused the hell out of his mom whenever she’d drop him off in the morning. One day she took me aside and asked “You’re name’s not really Bob is it?” I told her it was Geoff. She was relieved because she’d been sure that my name was Geoff and though she’d been calling me by the wrong name. I told her the story of why Randall calls me Bob and why i call him Steve. She nearly cried, she loved it.
Today was the last day of the school year. Randall is one of my faves (yes, we have faves). He and his mom came up to my office and presented me with a little gift to thank me for hanging with and helping Randall this year. It was one of those gifts that you don’t see coming and though I kept my composure at school, writing this is plucking at my heart strings. Other than the bottle of wine one of the parents gave me, this is the best.
Sometimes I’m loud. I have kind of a big voice and a personality to go with it. Most of the time I have it all under control. At school, at times, I’ll bring out what I call my Big Boy voice in order to be heard. I also laugh loud. That one is a lot harder to control, but it’s laughter, so fuck you.
This past Friday I went out with my coworkers for drinks. Many drinks. It was brought to my attention, about a pint into the proceedings, that I was being loud. I assured everyone that this was normal and to be expected, but I added that I would try to keep it down. I also gave everyone instructions to cue me for being loud as I take direction well.
So, many pints and one patio change later, the subject of this blog came up. I was going through the photos on my phone, in search of something that I don’t know what it was, when I came upon the picture I took of Jesus. Yes, that Jesus. The Jesus trying to eye fuck everyone. The picture was passed around and I regaled them with a very witty summary of the blog post. Have I mentioned that not only am I loud when I drink, but I’m fucking hilarious. As I was getting laughs and no one thought to cue me for being loud, I made no efforts to keep it down.
I left the patio to stand several inches away in order to have a smoke (because you can’t smoke on the patio). As I was smoking, I continued to wow and amaze my listeners with smooth story telling. A lovely woman sitting at the next table over, broke from the conversation with her friend and turned towards me. In that moment I knew that, had she been reading my blog, she would have hit the follow button. Sometimes you just know that you’ve gotten through to someone and that you are now on the same page. In the second or so that it took her to turn towards me (leaving, what I’m sure, was a staid and numbing conversation), I knew.
“If I’m going to have to listen to every single thing that you say, you better at least show me the fuck-me-Jesus picture.” This was delivered in an even and calm tone. It was pitched perfectly so that my friends and I could hear it and it was loud enough to cut through whatever bullshit was probably pouring out of my word hole, but not so loud as to embarrass me in front of the whole patio. In that moment I knew what she was saying. This wonderful woman had just told me to shut the fuck up. I loved her in that moment. It was perfect. I may have been told to shut the fuck up, previous to this, but none has every made me want to shut the fuck up. I needed to shut the fuck up. For her.
Of course I showed her the picture. “Wow. He really is trying to fuck everyone.” He boyfriend/husband guy looked at it and laughed louder than anything I had yet produced, so he should probably shut the fuck up too. We chatted some more as a group and she even had us join in on a spirited game of judge-the-guys-trying-to impress-girls. Awesome. I have no idea who she is but there’s a picture of us on her phone and I’m a little in love with her still.
Sometimes in life there are perfect moments. This was one of those.
P.S. The whole night was amazing from start to finish and I need to do that again, soon.
My mother in law always has a Jesus calendar on her wall. I’ve known her for 18 years and there has always been one.
Over the years I’ve noticed a slow change in the artwork of these calendars, specifically in the drawing of Jesus. He’s always been caucasian looking and has always been rocking a mumu type robe. A few years ago I saw that he had become a little more swarthy, which I thought was pretty cool, given the area of the world he’s purported to come from. Alas, this did not last and he’s back to being a stubbly caucasian.
But why is he trying to eye-fuck me? Seriously, that piercing, head on look of his, cannot be confused with beatific peace. He is telling you that even if your soul isn’t his, your body will be. If your date looked at you like that, his intentions would be unmistakable. Other than the calendar, I’ve never been on the receiving end of a look like that and I’ll admit that it terrifies me and confuses me at the same time. Repelled and drawn. This is the power of the calendar Christ.
I don’t know that I could live in the same house as that calendar. I have visions of myself standing, enraptured, trying to scrute the inscrutable. Trying to come to terms with the power of that eye-fucking.
So, this is a short and rather simple take on a complicated subject. There are so many more factors at play than the ones I will mention. The conversation I’m suggesting take place is much deeper that this post implies. Basically I’m trying to highlight something that I see as the essence of the problem. Thanks in advance for reading.
A dress code for students, both middle school and high school, is important. As a parent and an educator, I really do see the need. I will enforce the dress code as part of my job. My job does not include explaining to the kid why there is a need for a dress code. This is anathema to being an educator; I really like explaining things and it’s a great opportunity for learning and debate. The dress code conversation is way above my pay grade. Would you like to know why? Of course you do. Let me explain, as best I can.
The reason that I’m not going to engage any student in the debate over dress code or try to explain to them the reasons behind it is, it’s not my job. That lovely task falls to you, the parents. But, Geoff, why should I have to defend the school’s policy? It’s your policy, not mine. Let me ask you something, dear parent: Do you want me, an admittedly amazing person, talking to your preteen or teen about sex? Your answer better be no. Perhaps you’ll say that you don’t want me to talk to them about sex, but do want me to discuss the dress code. Well, they are the same thing. That’s why it’s difficult for any school to justify/explain/debate/enforce a dress code, and it’s also why a dress code is needed. Your kids are changing in shape and hormone content. They are also becoming more and more aware of their own bodies and the bodies of their peers. When it comes right down to it, puberty and all the changes that come with it are about reaching sexual maturity (not mental maturity). The changes are already screaming “Look at me! I’m fertile/virile! Let’s do it!” There’s a feeling if power that comes with these changes. You’re turning heads and having a visible effect on others. It’s about sex.
Your kids need be defined by more and noticed for more that long legs or cleavage. The problem being that the media’s influence makes that harder and harder. Peoples’ worth is so often and so unfairly tied to their appearance. This is not a new thing, but is so prevalent in our society that the battle against it is overwhelming. It’s insidious and is present everywhere. You don’t need me to point out to you all the ways that girls and women are told that their looks and attractiveness to others is the most important thing.
Fashion has always tried to test the limits of what society deems appropriate. Teens are discovering themselves and the world around them and in the process they also want to test all boundaries. I don’t want that to change. That is innovation and is always needed. This is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about the broader lesson that our children need to be taught. They are more than their physical appearance, more than the sex that will inevitably become a part of their lives, so much more. As parents you can safely explain to your kid that they are beautiful and sexy and that they are also more than that. There are times and places that are great for strutting your stuff and revelling in the physicality of being a teen. Despite it being the most social place in a teen’s day, school just isn’t the place for that. Some restraint is needed. It’s up to you, the parent to explain this to your child. Please, please think about all of this before you complain about the school’s dress code or the enforcement of the dress code.
END OF PART ONE. Stay tuned.