Only in Middle School

There was a picture going around a few years ago, captioned “only in middle school”.  It showed a boy with his head through the hole in the back of a plastic bucket chair and a number of people with tools trying to free him.  If you haven’t been around middle school boys, you probably thought it was faked.  I believe it.

Most of the boys in my class seem to think that they’re talented percussionists.  Any pen or pencil they have becomes a drumstick, and they constantly create rhythms on their desks.  Constantly.  While I’m talking.  To put it mildly, it can be irritating, and asking them to stop only creates a brief pause.

Fred was a tall, African-American boy with short dreads.  He seemed easy-going, but he had a temper.  One day last year he leaped over two desks to pound a boy that apparently had been teasing him.  But he stopped when I told him to, and seemed more abashed than angry when he was suspended.  Anyway, I was trying to teach, with  Fred providing a rhythmic background when suddenly he yipped.  If you’ve taught in middle school this kind of noise can mean anything from a paper cut to a dog walking by the window.  I looked over and he held up his hand.   His freshly sharpened pencil-drumstick had gone through the web of his hand by his thumb, poking out about an inch.

“Run to the clinic.” I said, “The rest of you, uh, finish the, uh, reading.”  He ran out, I followed at a trot.  When I got there, the nurse had already dialed 911, and was on the phone with his parents.  “No,” she said, “you can’t pick him up and take him to the emergency room, the ambulance is coming.  No!  Fred!  Don’t pull it out.”  As she wrapped his hand loosely in gauze, the principal came in.

“Go to my room.  I left the kids alone.  I’m staying here.”  And I did, patting him on the shoulder and keeping him calm.  The ambulance came, he left with the paramedics and I returned to class.  We made him a card.

He was back in a few days, tapping away.  Only in middle school.

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