I’ve started this entry about four times, and each time, I’ve erased it halfway through because it’s so hard to write. But I think it’s something I have to share.
Today, I overheard this conversation:
Asshat 1: I hate those damn teacher education people.
Asshat 2: I know, man. They’re retarded.
Asshat 1: Seriously, there was a girl who had to ask the teacher to describe (sciencey-mumble-mumbly-mumbles) cell respiration.
Asshat 2: You’ve got to be kidding. That’s Basic A&P.
Asshat 1: Seriously. They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. They slow the rest of us down. I’m so sick of being stuck in classes with them.
And on it went, for five fucking minutes. It was early, so there were only three people in the lounge–the twin asshats and me. I listened to their ignorant diatribe for a while before I had to interject.
Me: Um, I’m one of those teacher education people.
Them: Oh. Sorry. Didn’t know you were sitting there.
Me: Yeah. So… do you need help with your lab assignment?
Asshat 1: Uh, no man, we’ve got it done. Yeah…
I hate people like this. They assume that because we’ve chosen to teach, teacher education candidates aren’t smart enough to keep up with the rest of the class. It’s that old “those who can’t, teach” mentality. What they don’t realize is that our degree is exactly the same as theirs, except that we replace their required X-number of upper division of Biology courses with X-number of teacher education courses.
We actually have to get HIGHER grades than they do to graduate. We receive the exact same piece of overpriced parchment they get at graduation, but some how in their nascent little minds, they’re better than us.
These type of people form little cliques. Groups that will never include anyone who is considering stepping foot in a classroom after graduation, unless it is for medical/pharmacy/dental/graduate school. In the microcosm of the Math-Science building, they’re like the popular kids in high school, except that they would rather be taking practice MCAT tests than trying to bang the head cheerleader in the backseat of their Honda.
But they’re not THE popular kids in our building. They’re not at the top of the food chain. They’re overshadowed by the Math majors (yes, my university is so small that you can actually major in “Mathematics” as opposed to the Differential Equations or Non-linear Algebra that larger institutions offer.)
A few years back, these watery geeks–who are so insubstantial and pale a stiff breeze would blow them over–staged a virtually silent coup one night while they were studying for an upcoming exam. (Calc II is sooooo hard! We’ll never live through the semester! DOOOOOOOOOM!)
They claimed that we, the collegiate equivalent of short bus riders, were interfering with the group learning environment in the study lab with all our talk of biochemical pathways and regulation of transcription and whatnot. They took their complaint straight to the top of the nerd heirarchy, and voila! The next day, their holier-than-thou advisor moved declared that our presence would no longer be welcome.
Since then, everyone else has been exiled to an old lab downstairs–an old lab that still contains grisly reminders of its former use. Oh, and our friend, Woody.
So to recap:
Math>Biology/Chemistry>Teacher Licensure candidates.
Basically, we’re the bottom of the MS building social pyramid. If the Math Science building is a big pond, the Math majors are the dainty little angel fish, and we’re the lowly carp, swimming around the bottom of the tank, living on their excrement.
(Yeah, I know that angel fish and carp don’t live in the same environment. Because I took Ecology. And every other -ology you can come up with. SHADDUP.)
I had a lot of time to kill today in between classes. Red had given me a ride to school since my eye was all fuckled up when I woke up (seriously, who scratches their own eye while they’re sleeping?) and I didn’t feel safe driving myself. A bad case of road rage plus a chronic myopia plus an eye injury does not a good driver make.
So I was stuck on campus, with no option but to spend my time downstairs in the study lounge, um, studying. For three hours. In a room cold enough to hang goddamn sides of beef.
While I concentrating on keeping hypothermia at bay, I overheard that conversation. I couldn’t help it. And I couldn’t pretend that I hadn’t heard it.
The conversation really reminded me of middle school, but not in a good way–in a way that still makes my insides churn up and curl around themselves like a burnt, blackened piece of bacon.
I was never part of the ‘in’ group. I was ‘lucky’ enough to hang out around its periphery. While they gathered around one important table at lunch time, I sat at the adjacent table and my friends fed me gossip from the popular kids. We weren’t the most popular people, but dammit, we were important.
In particular, I was important because every time anyone needed help, they came to me. I may have been a ridiculously devoted clarinet-playing loser going through her awkward stage (complete with badly trimmed bangs), but I could conquer every unsolved problem anyone could throw at me.
I let this power go to my head. My ego preceded me through doorways. I was unstoppable.
I was a mean girl.
I didn’t have the looks, the clothes, or the money of the titular movie characters, but boy-oh-boy did I have the attitude.
For some reason, I decided it would be a great idea to play a really vicious joke on one of the special education students who mainstreamed in some of my classes. I realize now that she was a victim of her circumstances–meth addled parents who liked to use her as a punching bag and sexual gratification device on a regular basis–but at the time, she was just that annoying girl in my life science class who insisted that ‘snow peas were white because snow was white and why would they name them snow peas if they’re not white like snow’.
I found myself paired with her during group exercises more than once because my teacher thought that it would be beneficial for her to be exposed to, I don’t know, my alpha brainwaves or something. I resented the hell out of it, and I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
One winter evening while spending the evening with one of my cronies–there’s really no other word for it–we plotted my revenge. To this day, I remember being completely uncomfortable with the idea, but my friend pushed me and pushed me until we had crafted the perfect prank. We were convinced there was no way it could be traced back to us, my friend told me, and I’d definitely catch the attention of the basketball player I’d been crushing on.
Yeah, I was practically the poster child for an after-school special about peer pressure.
Our plan went like this:
- Write, in manly block letters, a fake love letter to the special ed student [Dominque] from the hottest guy in school, [Robert], declaring his secret, undying love.
- Pass said note on to [Shirley], an aquaintance with a locker next to Dominique’s, who would stuff it between the cracks on the top of Dominique’s locker.
- Wait for lunch, when the note asked Dominique to approach Robert with a “Do you like me? Check Yes or No” type of response.
- Witness her humiliation and laugh at her rebuff and subsequent tears.
- Triumph because we alone knew the secret of Dominque’s downfall, mwahahahaha!
Of course, nothing went as planned.
Early the next morning, the note was strategically planted before the first bell had rung. Unbeknownst to us, Dominque had a special arrangement with her teachers that allowed her to visit her locker before everyone else. She immediately found the note–which was written in gold sparkle pen, no joke–laying innocently on top of her books. Her name was outlined in little red hearts, for Christ’s sake. There was no ignoring it.
It didn’t take long for her to show her teacher. She was so proud. Just think about it. She, a girl who wore a cast-off swimsuit as a bra because she could afford nothing else, thought that the richest, best looking, most talented boy in our school had a crush on her. On her!
No wonder she told the first person she saw.
Her teacher was immediately suspicious. Of course she would be. Though we had tried our best to disguise our (my!) writing, the gold glitter pen and hand-drawn hearts totally gave it all away as a hoax. Dominque’s teacher immediately took the confiscated note to the main office, where my mother intercepted it.
Take a minute for that shit to sink in.
My mother recognized my handwriting. My mother had to tell the principal, her boss, who had really written it. My mother was the one to send an office worker out onto the school store to summon me to the counselor’s office.
When I got the office, I knew my jig was up. I had never done anything to get in trouble at school up until this point, and I was scared. I can still remember the look my mother gave me when I pushed open the front doors, a look of mingled sadness, disappointment, and anger. I think she had been crying before I got there, and that made me feel even worse.
Whatever punishment the school could dole out, her’s would be worse.
I don’t remember much after that point, except sitting in the counselor’s office talking face to face with Dominique, no adults present. She never asked why we wrote the note. She just told me about her awful past, and why she was the way she was. I sat silently in my chair across from her, waiting for the axe to fall. But it never did. She never asked for an apology.
She just wanted someone to eat lunch with that day.
I don’t remember what kind of trouble I got in with the school , but my mom could probably tell you. It wasn’t big enough to register as a blip on my long term memory’s radar, but I’m sure the shitstorm I stepped into at home was a zillion times worse.
It was a defining moment in my youth. The fact that I remember the act more than it’s punishment has to say something. After that awful day, I never thought twice about including Dominique at my picnic table. If my friends ever raised an eyebrow in question, I just threw them a look that said, “Deal with it.” Whenever she needed a dime (a dime!) for a Blowpop at the school store, I gladly gave it to her.
So there you have it. The moment that I realized that I couldn’t run with the ‘in’ crowd. The moment that I realized my parents knew what they were talking about when they said I should listen to the Holy Spirit talking to me. The moment I realized I should listen to MY OWN GODDAMN CONSCIOUS. From that point on, I would never try to be something I wasn’t.
It’s not to say I haven’t had my share of screw ups since that day. God knows I have, and I’m still trying to atone for them. But I will never the day I crushed Dominique’s childish hope.
I hope she has.