from Tyler Stern
May 9, 2014, 8:17 p.m.
“Attention everyone! We are about to begin judgment.” Slowly but surely the 20-ish teachers scattered throughout the room, each sitting in a separate chair, swung around in their seats to face me. Here it was, my chance to make a difference at Pennbrooke High.
“Excellent. Now then, before we start, does anyone have any announcements to make?” One man at the side of the classroom raised his hand. “Yes, Mr. Davies?”
The man stood up and cleared his throat. “Well, it’s still a bit early, but I’m proud to inform you all that the teacher’s budget committee has found an extra $150 in our account…” His voiced trailed away as he tried to build suspense for what was about to come next. “So, we’re going to use that money to buy a new coffee maker for the teacher’s lounge!” The atmosphere was electric. Hoorays and huzzahs broke out as applause filled the air.
“Be sure to keep Mr. White away from that thing, though. We don’t want any more broken coffee pots in here,” said Mr. Terrance, whose joke caused everyone to burst out laughing. Well, everyone except for Mr. White, the algebra teacher. He gave the rest of the teachers a slight snarl before taking a sip of coffee from his Michael Bublé Christmas album mug.
I leaned forward to take a look at the clock behind me. 4:35 PM. “Ok everyone, let’s go ahead and get started so we can get out of here by 5.” I turned my head towards the doorway and called out to Mr. Goller and Mr. Sheikh. “Bring him in.”
The door opened and the two teachers walked inside the room carrying a chair. The chair itself wasn’t really of any importance. What was important was what, or rather, who was sitting in the chair. Young Mr. George Pasión had proven himself to be too undisciplined to be left alone as a student. There had been enough troublemaking in this school for a lifetime; something had to be done, and I was the one to do it.
Mr. Goller and Mr. Sheikh dropped George with a thud at the front of the room. The silver duct tape that strapped him to chair and covered his mouth glinted in the intense fluorescent lighting overhead. His eyes darted around the room, surveying his captors as the tape muffled his cries for help.
“Welcome to the inaugural trial of the Teachers Who Are Trying, or T.W.A.T.!” I began to applaud but quickly stopped after I realized I was the only one clapping. “After a grueling process, I personally selected each one of you to be a member of this committee because, well, you were the only ones who responded to my email.” I scanned the room and grinned smugly. “But regardless of whatever brought us together, we are united by a single belief. The belief that our school is in danger. It is the kids like George Pasión who threaten our precious way of life at Pennbrooke High. Their actions have been unacceptable for too long. It is time to correct the troublemakers and hooligans, the menaces and the burnouts, the druggies and those really weird kids with black shit all over their eyes.” I paused for dramatic effect, soaking in the limelight. “You all should be honored, because after tonight, everything changes.”
Mrs. Stender, the physics teacher, raised her hand.
“Yes, go ahead, Mrs. Stender”
She stood and awkwardly greeted her fellow teachers around her. “Hi, um, I was told there would be cookies? Is that still happening?”
“Come on, Mrs. Stender,” I said disappointedly after a brief pause.
“Sorry. I just — I was just really looking forward to those cookies.” She produced an innocent smile.
I sighed. “Mrs. Stender, the cookies will be eaten after we finish the procedure.” She quietly nodded and sat down back in her seat. Apparently, not everyone was as invested in this cause as I was; I figured this would happen. It was hard being so damn professional all the time, especially when surrounded by others who were, well, for lack of a better word, un-professional. But there was no doubt in my mind that I would make them believe in T.W.A.T.. I had to make them believe — I had a dream to achieve.
“Now then, I present to you, George Pasión.” I swung my arm out in a grandiose gesture, as if I were revealing a prize on The Price is Right. Not surprisingly, George was still sitting in his chair, probably trying to figure out what the heck was going on. “As you may or may not know, Mr. Pasión here has a substantial history with the school administration.” I pulled out a file from the podium and began reading as I thumbed through the plentiful pages inside. “I have before me George’s log of transgressions as reported by his teachers. Numerous counts of tardiness, borrowing pens and returning them with less ink then before, going to the bathroom without asking permission, giving Starbucks gift cards for less than $10 as end-of-the-year gifts.” The more I listed off George’s numerous infringements, the more teachers became appalled with his intolerable behavior. “Answering too many of my questions correctly, and most recently —” I turned to George and watched as he struggled to break free from the duct tape binding his arms, legs, and torso to the chair, but it was of no use. “Not writing his name on his chemistry homework.”
Immediately boos and jeers emanated from the group of teachers. I lifted the piece of notebook paper with a big, red circle where George’s name should have been. This only produced louder swears.
“You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s not even that hard of a thing to remember!” Mr. Rodgers was stricken with incredulity by this incomprehensible atrocity. “How could you forget that? HOW?” The rest of the teachers were more offended than disturbed by George’s defiant gesture judging from the disappointed phrases they shouted. Slowly but surely they were joining my crusade.
“Alright, let’s settle down, everyone,” I said loudly as I banged the gavel on the podium several times. The large upheaval reduced to silent grumbles as the displeased crowd tried to contain their antipathy.
“I think it’s safe to say that no one here is happy with George’s behavior.” My presumption was met with mumbling and scoffs.
“We cannot have hooligans like him in our school! Our oasis of knowledge will be destroyed!” cried Mrs. Bottom. The rest of the teachers shouted various exclamations in support of her accusation.
“You’re right, Mrs. Bottom. You’re absolutely right.” I smiled slyly. “He is obviously a troubled kid, and no teacher should have to put up with someone like him. That’s why we’re here. We’re not here because we enjoy spending more time at school than we need to, and we’re not doing this to try and simply earn some overtime pay that will barely bolster our mediocre teacher salary. We’re here today because we don’t want to put up with students’ apathy anymore; so instead of throwing them into detention and having them sit there blankly doing nothing to better themselves, we’re going to better them whether they like or not.” I looked down and rubbed the backs of my hands. I could still feel the sting of the wooden ruler after so many years. “And trust me — they’re going to love every minute of it.”
I lifted my gaze back towards the diverse range of teachers from across all academic departments and smiled. “Now then, who has any stories to back up how horrible George is?”
Nearly every hand in the room shot up. “Okay, wow. So all of you.” I perused the eager storytellers momentarily before finally pointing at one. “Mr. Lonning, let’s start with you.”
Mr. Lonning stood up frantically looking very upset. “There was this one day where I was teaching my statistics class and I drank an entire bottle of water the period before, so naturally I had to use the bathroom really badly. I gave my students a few problems to work on while I stepped out. I was gone 2, 3 minutes tops. I came back to my room and walked inside, and you know what I found on my desk? Roses. Freshly. Picked. Roses.” Mr. Lonning’s breathing became more and more rapid. “Everyone knows that I have an irrational fear of roses! I was lucky to have just emptied my bladder or else I would have urinated all over my pants, all because someone thought it would be funny to see a grown man cry for his mother! And who was this certain someone?” He stuck a bony finger at George. “Him!” The teachers listening shook their heads in disapproval. “He knew I’m terrified of roses and wanted to make me look stupid! It was only later that I learned he organized the entire class to execute his diabolical plot. Look!” Mr. Lonning pulled out his phone and swiped through what looked like an event planner. “They even made a Facebook event to plan it!” He planted his hand on his hip and dug his tongue into his cheek in disgust. “And to think he would have the audacity to do this to me right after I won teacher of the year.”
Mr. Terrance stood up and faced Mr. Lonning. “You think that’s bad? One time in gym class, the little fucker was staring at me while I was taking role. Next thing I knew, my pants were around my ankles and my whole class was staring at my ding dong!” The group of teachers shriveled their noses and looked away from him in disgust. “I had to go to five sexual harassment seminars because of that stunt!”
“I don’t think that was him, Mr. Terrance,” I said, shaking my head. “I think your pants just fell down…”
He threw his hands up into the air. “There’s no way! That kid must be an X-Man; he has to know telekinesis or something!”
“Need I remind you all what George Pasión did to me?” Mrs. Dunbar stood up and pointed to her shiny head. “I used to have hair before he took my chemistry class!”
“Well you can take some of mine,” said Mrs. Lewis, rubbing her chin covered in spiraling, dark hairs. “I didn’t have a problem with sprouting hairs until I had George in my world history class.”
“He once ate a piece of birthday cake in my class and never offered to share any of it!”
“That was my birthday cake! And he didn’t even bother singing Happy Birthday to me either!”
With each succeeding story, each teacher became more and more enraged with the despicable George Pasión. Expletives and curses were violently spewed like hot water from geysers, chairs were thrown, professionalism was at a dangerously low level; what started as a calm and orderly meeting was turning into total chaos.
I smashed the gavel on the podium, wielding it with the same power as Thor and his hammer. “Order! There will be order!” No one paid attention. A mug smashed against the wall and shattered into an array of ceramic shards. “Order! Mr. White, what did I tell you about throwing mugs!” Mr. White crossed his arms and sunk deeper into his chair.
“He switched my hole puncher from the three hole punch setting to the two hole punch setting and never switched it back!”
The teachers couldn’t stand to hear this amount of odious behavior. Mr. Rodgers rocked back and forth on the floor with his hands covering his ears. “My head! It burns!”
Mrs. Stender leaned over to the trashcan beside her and vomited profusely. This much disrespect exhibited by just one student was unbearable.
“Order! Order!” I banged the gavel harder and harder on the podium to try and quell the teachers’ savagery, but it seemed like there was no stopping them. Their feelings were too intense — I couldn’t control them. God knows what could.
Suddenly, a loud bing rang from the intercom and the thunderous mayhem came to a complete halt. All of the teachers stopped what they were doing and fixated on the ceiling. A squeaky voice belonging to Mrs. Loiter, the school secretary, came through the speaker.
“Attention faculty and staff: will the owner of the blue Honda mini-van please come to the teacher’s parking lot. The deer tied to the roof just woke up and he is not happy.”
Slowly, Mr. White stood erect without breaking eye contact with any of us. He sauntered over to the door, still facing us, who were quietly staring back at him. He gently cracked open the door and slithered through the slit, barely making a sound. We continued to stare at the closed door for a few more seconds, trying to comprehend what just happened, when a subdued voice surfaced from the collection of teachers.
“There’s something that I would like to say.” All of us turned to see Mr. Scott sitting humbly in his chair. The small, five foot, four inch instructor stood up so that the rest of the room could see him a little bit better, but it didn’t really help that much. “Oh yes, I’ve got plenty to say about Mr. Pasión here.” He removed his glasses, cleaned them with a cloth, and placed them back on his tiny nose. “Mr. Pasión has been a menace in my history class ever since day one, always causing disruptions with his incessant sniffling. I ask him to kindly stop but he…he never listens to me.” Mr. Scott played with the button on the cuff of his shirt, obviously distressed by something. “He tells me, oh, it’s just allergies, it’s really no big deal. And I offer him a tissue or ask if he wanted to use the restroom. But he always refuses. Oh, he knows how much his sniffles torment me, he just simply doesn’t want to put an end to it.” He dropped his head to the floor and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath, possibly readying himself for what he was about to say next, and looked back up towards me. “Mr. Pasión is a horrible student, there is no denying that. In fact, often times I find myself outright questioning his humanity.” He broke his gaze with me and looked at George dead in the eyes. “I mean, really? Not singing Happy Birthday to someone on his birthday? What kind of monster are you?”
He shook his head and turned around to address the entire group of teachers. “As despicable as George may be, what does it says of us if we are to engage in this kind of barbaric judgment? Who gave us the right to abduct a child and bind them to a chair against their will, all in the name of ‘betterment?’” He let this question sink in before spinning around and sticking his finger in my direction. “And you, Mr. Lawrence. You pride yourself on upholding professionalism, yet you are the one who is spearheading this sick exercise of twisted justice. Instead of reacting with a closed fist, why not offer an open hand?” Mr. Scott walked over towards George and caressed his cheek. It seemed like George was unsure whether he should feel heartfelt or severely creeped out. “This organization is nothing but a torture device to be used upon our school, so let’s put an end to it before it escalates any more. Let’s stop this inhumane treatment of our students.” He turned back to face the teachers and produced a warm smile. “What do you say? Are you with me?”
The next thing Mr. Scott knew, he was being laughed out of the teacher’s lounge. Tears poured out every teacher’s eyes like the gushing waters of Niagara Falls; every face was puffy and red from laughing so hard.
“Open hands,” Mr. Terrance said mockingly, trying desperately to catch his breath. “What a loser!”
Even through my wall of professionalism, I myself found it difficult not to laugh just a little bit. Mr. Scott knew better than to assume that we could just let students off easy or show them compassion. He knew just how bad the situation was in our school. These kids needed to be taught a lesson, and we were going to do just that. Or rather, I was going to do that.