Wall of fame
“Look what they wrote about me!” The angry 20-something teacher pointed at the bathroom wall.
“I can’t believe it!”
New teachers can’t manage compliments. Camera phones make modern ego inflation instantaneous. Old timers like me had to dash for the office Polaroid and beat the custodian’s brush to preserve memories.
I reached for my camera phone and initiated protocol, “Scoot over I’ll take your picture.”
“What? The rookie was appalled.
“Oh, yea — that’s a great compliment. Stand next to the drawing.”
“To inspire that ditty you did some teaching. Get over there.”
“I’m not taking a picture with that nasty stuff.”
“You’ll love this when you’re my age. Look at the punctuation.”
“I’m slandered in red ink and you’re admiring punctuation?” Confusion etched his face.
“Actually the random use of capitol F’s and writing slant caught my eye.”
The teacher re-examined the graffiti, “If I get my hands on this kid!”
“We’re getting to that — now let’s digitize your epitaph.”
The frantic faculty freshman folded. I emailed him the pictures.
“Can I call the custodian now?”
“Sure. I’ll see you after school. Relax, enjoy the moment.”
“Are you crazy?” The teacher fled disgusted.
I gleaned subtle graffiti clues for professional redemption: red ink, boy’s bathroom, average height, right handed, angry, excellent profanity, punctuation and above average art skills.
After Friday’s last bell I educated my demoralized mentee, “How’s it goin?”
“I’m not cut out for this teaching gig.”
“Keep the profane poetry in professional perspective.”
Defeated eyes reviewed the emailed JPEGs. “I see how I’m perceived.”
“You got it all wrong — you’re inspiring! See the ‘Mr.’ in front of your name — you garner respect.”
“Yea, right — respect.” The commode art overpowered logic.
“Let’s reciprocate. Your bathroom ghostwriter thinks he’s in the clear because the evidence is gone and he’s not suspended. We’ll ambush him next week — just for sport. Get a stack of index cards.”
I detailed the plan. On Monday you’ll give a district mandated writing assignment.
Ask the kids if they want to fill up an index card or a whole page of lined paper? They’ll pick the index card every time. You can spring your trap in less than a minute.
Pass out the cards. Be smug — defiant in cause.
Tell the class in rebellious tone “We’re only going to write for 30 seconds!”
The class will be with you.
Then add, “One writer will win a grand prize!”
The assignment’s defiant tone will deflect your real purpose. Prizes inspire teenage authenticity.
Give the kids 30-seconds to write: A half-dozen fireman, five actually, feel Sam Blanchard’s fire may motivate another horror movie.
When time is up, have the kids flip their index cards over. Offer extra credit for the best drawing of a fireman.
Artists are extroverts — your nemesis will rise to the occasion.
Surprisingly the teacher did as told. The bathroom artist’s handwriting easily identified. The F’s were a dead ringer — scrawled in matching red ink.
The teacher showed me his CSI handiwork,
“Can we call the principal?” He was ecstatic.
“No! Tomorrow, after class, call the winner to your desk. Hold his index card against your computer screen — his bathroom graffiti. Silently eye-lock your trouble maker until he sweats or faints.”
“Is that it?”
“No — extort the rat! You’ll own him all year!”
“Extortion.” The rookie beamed.
“Then proudly tell your friends and family about the artwork and admit to yourself, ‘I’m a real teacher – I made the wall of fame!’”
Ty Pelfrey is a Nevada County resident and teacher. Contact Ty at email@example.com and facebook.
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