Fourth period. Students are moving to sit with groups, slowly getting ready to work. I see a group of girls looking through some photos instead of their books.
"Put those away or I'll shoot," I say, approaching, rubber band stretched on my finger.
"You shoot that rubber band at us and I'll shoot it right back at you," one of the girls says.
"Yeah, I can do that," she says. "You're just like a big kid."
It's the third week of school, and some students have already figured me out. Some are already realizing that, wait a second, he's a human being, with his own weird sense of humor, his own little moods and all those things. Some. Most students still think of me as that Teacher Man up there, yapping away about college and whatnot. It might still be months before I make any significant personal connection with these students.
From the same group, a few minutes later: "So, what kind of person were you when you were our age?"
I walk over. "Well," I say, "when I was in high school, I was a dork." They laugh. "No, really, I went to a giant school where it was hard to fit in, so I just had my group of friends and we hung out, listened to music, slacked off, and did dumb things."
"You went to Lane, right?"
"Yeah, 5,000 students there."
"What kind of music did you listen to?"
"Oh, I listened to terrible music. Iron Maiden. Judas Priest."
"You were a headbanger!"
"But you don't listen to that anymore? Your musical tastes have grown up?"
"Yeah," I say. "I now listen to college rock."
This conversation could last for a while. I realize they're partially interested but mostly trying to avoid the assignment. So I tell them to get back to work and walk away. Walk away thinking, I really haven't grown up yet. I am still a kid. Is it the job that keeps me young? Or is it my hope to stay young at heart that has drawn me to this job? There are people that wish they could relive their teen years. Not me. I hated high school. But I guess I want to make it a little better for these students.
When I tell them that they should enjoy these years, they don't believe me. Being a teenager is hard. Everything matters. Plus, when you're 16, and you realize you know everything there is to know about life, that's a burden. Now that I'm older and I realize I know very little, maybe life is finally getting easier. So I can admit that I used to be a dork. That I still am.
"Get working," I say, passing that group again. "If you don't, bad things might happen."
"Well," I say. "if you don't apply yourself now, you might end up going to college and majoring in English. Then, the worst possible thing might happen to you: You might become a high school teacher."
"You don't hate it!"
"Are you kidding? I'm stuck in high school ... forever!"