Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The German

It's weird, on the first day of classes at a tight-knit boarding school, I sort of felt like the new kid. The students were friendly and nice enough, but there was definitely a distance. Some tried to figure me out--am I cool? will I stick around?--but mostly they ignored me. So, I absolutely could understand how the new students feel. One of my favorites so far is an 11th grader from Germany. In less than 24 hours, I've busted him three times. Each time, he puts on the same innocent act--I'm new here; I have no idea how things work. And each time I'm like, yeah, same here.

Yesterday, I joined a small group of colleagues at a little restaurant at the top of the hill. When we got there, the place was absolutely overrun by high school boys; the main dorm is about to be demolished and replaced, so this year, the boys are scattered at different satellite dorms. The older kids are near this restaurant, so it'll be their hangout. After a while, the boys cleared out, and my group had the place to ourselves. As we sat there enjoying cheese toast and wai wai (which is glorified ramen), the German strolled up, carrying a bottle of Sprite in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

"Excuse me, are you a student?" one my my colleagues asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"You can't smoke! You smoke, and we have to report you right away."

"Yeah," I said, "you can't let us see you smoking!"

"Sorry," he said. He put out his cigarette and sat down at an adjacent table. After a few minutes, he got up to leave. He walked over and placed his pack of cigarettes and matches on our table. "That's it," he said. "I quit."

Today, as he entered my classroom, the German was listening to his iPod. "You know I have to confiscate that," I said.

"It's not allowed?" he asked. "Even between classes?"

"Even between classes. No iPods."

During class, students were working on my first assignment of the year--an application for my class. I always warn students that the application must be absolutely perfect--any cross outs or blanks and I don't accept it.

"Oh fuck," I heard. It was the German.

"What did you say?" I asked. "Oh what?"

"I said, 'Oh fuck,'" he said. Several students gasped. I shook my head. "You asked me what I said," he said.

"That's three strikes," I said, trying not to smile. "Do you know baseball? Because in baseball, you'd be out."

"No, I don't know baseball," he said. "I'm new here."

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