“You asked for this,” I tell myself as I stand in front of the unruly grade nine students. They’re big. They’re loud. They’re bold. And, I’m not all that much older than them.
They’re my PFL class—Perspectives for Living. I’m supposed to teach them life skills like self-esteem, drug and alcohol education, and sex education. They’re here because the drama teacher and the art teacher are fed up with them and only the academic kids take the other two options offered—French as a Second Language (which is the bulk of my teaching assignment) and music.
I have great plans for this class—field trips to see court in session, guest speakers, etc.—, but I can’t do any of that until I get some control. The first couple of weeks do not go well so I hatch a plan.
“Here’s the thing,” I say. “You guys put yourselves in groups of four and every Friday I’ll take a group for lunch. You pay for your meal. I’ll pay the tip.”
Group one piles into my car that first Friday and we drive to the small restaurant near the school. We have a great time. Group two and three go equally well. The atmosphere in the class begins to change.
“Shut up! Mrs. Jones wants to talk.” This is the biggest, toughest kid in the school talking and they do. Shut up, that is.
Then it’s group four—five boys from Lebanon with very shady reputations. “Where’s A?” I ask.
Waiting for us in the parking lot. And he is. Sitting in the driver’s seat of his own car. I didn’t know he was old enough to drive. He gets out and gallantly opens the passenger door for me. Great! I get to ride shotgun which wouldn’t be bad normally, but the car is festooned with huge furry dice and pompoms. I poke my head in. The entire interior is covered in plush red fabric.
“It’s okay. I’ll sit in the back,” I offer.
The young man insists I take the front seat. I slide in and sink down as low as I can. I don’t particularly want to be seen in this car. It’s not a matter of snobbery, honest. It’s a matter of professional reputation. I don’t think anyone saw me and we had a wonderful time at lunch.
We don’t neglect the academic students. My fellow French teacher and I offer to take them to a French restaurant at the end of the year. Seventeen kids take us up on the offer. Again, it’s a wonderful time. The kids even use a bit of their rudimentary language skills with the waiters, who it turns out don’t speak French at all.
On the way out, patrons waiting for tables stare at the multicultural crew of gangly teens. “Thanks for dinner, Mom,” one says loudly.
“Oh, you’re welcome,” I say. What else could I do?