Tales of a Middle School Nothing

I had been at a Japanese Yukata festival, in Hong Kong, when I learned I had been hired to teach middle school English and writing the following school year in Virginia. Up until that point, I had only taught at the college level. It was going to be a steep learning curve, although, at the time I had no idea. Thankfully, during the teacher’s orientation, a veteran math teacher took me under her wing and showed me the ropes for teaching middle school; simple things like having a physical inbox for students to drop off homework. In fact, one of her mantras has stayed with me: “You need pats on the back while being punched in the face.” Over time, I introduced the students to many of my own words of wisdom. In the film, The Jericho Mile, which takes place in a prison, one of the characters says he’s going to get some “Smell Well” from the canteen instead of cologne. Every time my homeroom class returned from the gym, I reminded them to get some “smell well” from their lockers. Currently, there’s probably a group of incoming college freshmen who refer to deodorant as smell well. At one point, later that same year, one of my colleagues was going to go to a drugstore and asked if I needed anything. I requested she pick up some Axe body spray for me, at which point the school nurse, who was also with us, suggested I get something else since that’s what all the middle school boys used. From that day on, I started using Old Spice. During the last period of the day, there was always study hall. The goal was for the students to finish as much of their homework before they went home. Since they all had ADHD and learning differences, it was easier that way. When there would be six minutes left in the period, I would play the song “The Show” by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick on my computer. In one of the verses, Slick Rick says “Six Minutes, Six Minutes, Six Minutes Doug E. Fresh you’re on.” A few of the students took to it, and one of them would always say “Six minutes, six minutes, don’t you mess around with me.” The first few years I taught at that school, I had a supervisor who was one of the nicest and most supportive people I’ve ever met. She used to sign all of her emails with “Thank you for all you do.” She had essentially dedicated her life to making sure both students and teachers had the most pleasant experience while they were at school. I used to joke that, in the multiverse, the opposite of her would be a sociopathic investment banker who would sign all email correspondence sarcastically with “Thank you for nothing.” These emails would most likely include a lot of profane insults as well. My movie repertoire also came in handy that first year, when I ran the Dungeons and Dragons club and assumed the role of the Dungeon Master. For the campaign on which the students embarked, I basically plagiarized most of the story from Phantasm 2. Ultimately, these students may not be able to recite what a gerund was or that FANBOYS was an acronym for remembering when to use a comma with a coordinating conjunction (For, And, Nor But, Or, Yet, So) but they would remember that The Lord Humungus ruled the wasteland in the film The Road Warrior. They might also remember one of his monikers as The Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rolla. Perhaps one day, when one of my former students receives an award like a Nobel Prize, they’ll thank their former teacher, Mr. Davie, for introducing them to the mythos of The Mad Max films while they were in school which precipitated their interest in discovering a source of renewable energy. 

Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website: asdavie.wordpress.com

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