Continued from There’s No Swearing in Biology. For Mary Ann, by request.
After I made it through subbing in fifth hour biology, the much talked about class, I thought I was home free. I breezed through sixth hour with six students who were quite rough around the edges, but incredibly respectful. This brought me to the last class of the day. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t anticipate it would get much darker before 3:15 p.m.
That’s when I was reminded I need to stop assuming.
Enter, the cool kids. They sat on the right side of the room. There were 12 of them. On the left side of the room sat three quiet students, dressed in black. They didn’t make eye contact with me once, they didn’t speak at all and they completed their work quietly.
Seventh hour students had worksheets for their assignment. They had the whole hour to work on them and they didn’t have to turn them in until the next day. I handed them out and started to tidy up the room.
From the front of the room I glanced around. In the middle of the room sat a lanky blond boy in a white t-shirt. He right hand was scribbling furiously, his head darting back and forth between two papers on his desk. With wide eyes he looked up, beads of sweat starting to form on his forehead, his mouth open. (My friend Collin would have called him a “mouth breather.”) He looked me right in the eye. And then he kept copying the paper.
Two can play at this game. I walked to the back of the room, appearing to make the rounds as I had been doing all day. I reached the back of the room and in an effort to silence my stacked heels on the tile floor, I carefully walked on my tip toes. I had the back of his head in my sights, my hands clasped tightly behind my back. I landed right next to his desk, just left of him.
“What are you up to?”
His body jerked and he almost fell out of his desk. Initially I had startled him and then he tried to hide the worksheet that was not his. I saw a name scrawled at the top in perfect cursive writing. It said Rachel and had a heart at the end of her name.
“Uh, Rachel said I could use her worksheet because I had a question on number five.”
This was a fill in the blank worksheet.
As if on cue, Rachel returned from the bathroom.
In an effort to catch her off guard I asked, “Rachel, did you let Steve borrow your worksheet?”
Steve shot her a look.
“I mean, yes, yes I did.”
Steve gave Rachel back her paper and I sat at the front of the room and watched. I watched as papers were quickly handed from one side of the room to another. I watched as students thought they were being sneaky and asking each other for answers.
I was a little afraid of them.
The right side of the room was suave, cool, over confident and smelled of name brands. It took me a few ticks of the clock, but I gathered up my courage and stood in the front of the room.
“Hand in your papers please.”
Looks of shock and comments of disapproval followed. That only fueled my disbelief in this class and my fear started to melt. My heads shook just a bit as I collected the papers. They shot icy glares in my direction.
I told them if they wanted to cheat they could do it in front of their regular classroom teacher. My confidence grew, as did my disappointment.
I told them I watched the whole class and their teacher would receive detailed notes. They did not seem impressed with that.
The right side of the room left in a huff, with backpacks swinging, stacks of books piled high, whispers and sideways glances.
I melted into a chair, disappointed in seventh hour, but incredibly relieved that I made it through the day. I felt I had won the cheating battle.
I was ready to return to first grade.