BRAD CLEMONS: End of school brings out cast of characters

Monday, May 9, 2011 | 12:50 p.m. CDT; updated 2:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 27, 2011

This is the time of year when teachers are reaching a little burnout. The kids are, as well, but it looks different when they do it. Frazzled students will doodle cartoons on the edges of their papers and stare out the window. I do not have a window in my classroom, so the students just stare in unison at the clock and watch it melt like the famous Salvador Dalí painting. When teachers burn out, we stare at the kids’ empty eyes, looking for meaning in our own lives, asking, “Could it be that I have just wasted the last year of my life?”

Some teachers at this point in the year will sit down, while the students are testing, and snoop around on or pray. I am not at that stage yet. But in keeping with the doodlers before me, I thought I would scratch out some notes of my own.


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At first, most test takers are looking around the room in desperation, trying to find decoded messages in a poster or see if maybe some other great note-taking classmate accidentally left his or her notes thumbtacked to the ceiling. This is the only time all year no one has been trying to talk. However, the body language of each of the students speaks a thousand pages.

This guy over here with his elbow on the desk, with his face restfully leaning on the hand tells me: "I've got the gist of it. If I write enough, maybe he'll give me a B." I call this guy The Crapper — he puts crap on paper very quickly and fluidly with a little optimism yet no expectations, similar to how one scratches off a $1 lottery ticket. He will be the first one finished.

To The Crapper’s left sits his lifelong antagonist, The Illuminati. This is the student who protects the teacher by reminding him of assignments that he forgot to collect. She is leaning over her paper for secrecy. She has her left arm holding up her face as well, but her hand is cupped around the eyes like a blinder. The blinder is for concentration purposes, because she is over-prepared. No, pre-prepared: She must have total concentrative powers to get all her knowledge on paper in the allotted time. To not get all the bits of knowledge out would leave this student feeling valueless. This girl will work after the bell and will be need to be chased out of the room after the bell has rung and the room is clear. The blinder also doubles as a security measure, to keep private her intellectual jewels from the eyes of The Thief.

The Thief is the only one purposely using non-verbals. He looks up often, a little higher than is usual, as if he is thinking. He shifts his eyes back and forth so as to throw off any suspicion in any one location, e.g., his neighbor's desk. Then on maybe the third or fourth pass through the room, his head continues to sweep, but his eyes stop in the middle. He has worked for more than a minute to get to this point. If he can sweep the head slowly enough, if he can stall for five seconds in the middle for just one word or idea that could springboard an entire page of crap, he can score on par with The Crapper, unless The Crapper is really in the zone. The Crapper was not over-prepared, but he was partially prepared. The Stealer, on the other hand, is not only not prepared, he's not even pared.

The next is the least subtle: The Clarifier. With the others, it’s all cute. If you want to trash your own GPA and high odds of gainful employment, that's your business. But the gal that keeps interrupting the thought processes of her peers and her teacher, who is trying to write this down for an article in the Missourian, well, that's just rude. The Clarifier asks obvious questions: "Do we get out at 11:30?" "Does the back count as the second page, or are both front and back one page?" "Are you grading for grammar on this one?" "Can you restate the question again?" This unique soul honestly believes that, though she has not taken any notes or done homework for weeks, she has a chance to score well if she can just reaffirm the boundaries and target herself straight enough. This student not only believes that all truth is relative, but that if an answer is relatively close, it should be the truth.

Her antagonist sits directly behind her, The Can Someone Reteach the Entire Unit to Me Really Quickly? Girl. This girl is always seen as attractive and is, consequently, bordered by Mr. Wikipedia, who knows a little about everything and wants to share it with less intelligent and lazy people, particularly attractive ones.

Time does not allow for adequate description of so many other students as they turn in their assignments early: The Quitter (and The Angry Quitter), The Worrier, The Entertainer, The Mumbler, The Only-Sick-On-Test-Days/Private Test Retaker, The Damsel in Distress, The Beggar and The Stalker.

Not to mention each character on paper: The Decorator, The Calligrapher, The Cryptographer, The Devil's Advocate, The Poet, The Casual Cathy (also tHe NSTNT MSNGR, sometimes also The Storyteller), The Picasso ("I think I'm going to need a map for this"), The Second Language Learner, The Rebel Without a Clause, The Mrs. Teflon and The Cowboy (who plays by no man's rules).

But now we wait. The clock ticks, ticks, tick ... tick ... tick ... like a rollercoaster climbing to its apex … I think I can, I think I can … then … anticipation … the bell rings and the tension releases … and the cart hurls down. There are papers falling off desks and papers flying. Arms waving in glee. And I’m sure the students were even worse. 

As I leave I hear The Clarifier say, “Mr. Clemons, is this due at the end of the hour?”  


Brad Clemons writes with humor so that people will think he is joking.

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