I am easily distracted by shiny objects. I grant that. The placement of those objects can either increase or decrease my incidence of distraction. I just made that up. Incidence of distraction. The degree to which, given a standard level of shiny, placement results in a differential distraction in a given individual. It’s scientifically proven. It happened in my class today.
My class is made of two curling rows of tables, each following the same curve. This means no student is far from me or the front of the room and the front row can just take their chairs and turn them around to work in groups. The curl is like the end of a French curve and one fits into the other. It is reminiscent of the waves our surfing-town is known for. I’m very proud of it.
It was designed by my friend Evanne, she of stage set design fame. We did this the week before school started when I arrived and discovered, a few days prior, all my furniture, newly delivered, had been stolen by other teachers. Teachers live by larceny. It’s that or they’d never have a thing. We got the tables from the trash.
Our school has dress codes. They are clear but have holes one could drive an elephant herd through. I can’t say I pay much attention to dress codes. For the most part I find them silly. Straps on shirts must be no less than three fingers wide. Shorts and skirts must be no shorter than the fingertips as one’s arms hang loosely. No foul or hate language. No language or pictures suggesting illegal acts or substances. I must admit, the hate language and illegal acts makes some sense. So does the ‘no flip flop’ rule. In crowded walkways the backs of the floppy shoes get stepped on and result in falls. Open toed shoes result in injury too. Such is the case in a child warehouse.
There are those holes though. Ladies in shirts that are long enough and do not have exposed tops but a slash across the chest so there is no doubt about the developmental status of the student. Not covered (by cloth or dress code). Against the spirit of the law but certainly not the word. The shorts are long enough to qualify but have the word luscious or bootieliscious across the backside. Personally, I’d rather they be shorter but not have the writing. Students will wear the illegal clothes and then put jackets over them. In the summer, jackets. They will then complain the classes are too hot but they can’t take their jackets off. Turn the air up, they ask. I have no trouble telling them their choice of dress isn’t going to inconvenience me. It’s summer. Dressing in a way that requires a jacket or sweatshirt isn’t going to gain my sympathy. Like the student in the short white skirt the day she knows we are going to be sitting out in the grass writing. The idea is it will get her out of it. The idea is mistaken.
The rules state how short skirts and shorts can be and that bare midriffs are forbidden. But because it says nothing about low-rise pants we have students who, half the day, are pulling their shirts down and spend the other half pulling their pants up. Does that call the attention of others? You bet. Boys and girls are equal participants in this.
Remember, this is eighth grade.
One of our teachers had a better way of putting it. When a student complained she had been brushed by a boy in an inappropriate place, the teacher pointed out, in a crowded school setting, it might be a good idea to use the rule that, if it isn’t a place I’d want touched, it’s not a place I’d want exposed.
It doesn’t matter to me, for the most part. I don’t care if a boy’s pants are so low I can tell them, each day, as they walk into the class, the color checks on their boxers. “Blue plaid today, Mr. S?” Mr. S. would never wear a belt and insisted on no-rise jeans. My talks with his father were not academic but more pleas for him to buy his son a belt. He did. With an LED buckle that read, in bright scrolling letters ‘CANDY’
Or if a gal wears her skirts so short her underwear is exposed when she sits. What do I care? That is a positive thing about tables, now that I think about it. Greater coverage.
Last year we had a student who insisted on low-rise skirts and thongs. I did my best to not walk around behind her. I had already been called by her parents and told her friend in class claimed I had looked at her. Not looked at her funny, but that I looked at her. (“Didn’t do your homework again, Ms. C?” Staring over my glasses as teachers have done since Franklin and even managed to do well before there were glasses.) She was going to lodge a complaint that “I looked at her.” Then the parents of the friend, having heard of the conspiracy from their daughter, spoke with her and explained it was the teachers job to look at all the students and the less work she did the more she’d get looked, and then, stared at. That was my job. Moreover, they explained this was far too serious a charge to make about a male teacher just because they didn’t like the class. Meanwhile, the low-rise girl had guys going out of their way to walk behind her to the pencil sharpener. Things would suddenly, continuously drop next to her so she would reach down to pick them up.
On one particularly clumsy day when more erasers were dropping than I thought were in the class and no pencils seemed to be sharp enough, I followed the rout the students, mainly boys, were taking to discover more of her than might be appropriate for public school and quite an ampling study in shadow and light for interested pupils in our class. Since the parents knew she was prone to this I called them. She was coming to school dressed in more than this and changed once at school. That ended. I’m teaching English. Just let me teach.
Another child in class liked glitter. She would rub it all over her. One day I noticed more than a few stares her way from the boys and giggles from the girls. She was actively rubbing glitter on her chest, pulling her shirt out a bit, rubbing it in, pulling it down, blowing on herself so it would dry. I was teaching transitions at the time and she was supposed to be revising her last essay for transition use.
I walked over to her and saw the problem. The glitter increased the deeper into her cleavage it got. She had formed an arrow from her neck pointing down between her breasts. So I am rather oblivious that it took stares and giggles to make me notice this. I knew better, however, than to point this out to her and, instead, called the teacher, a lady, from the class one over. She walked in, noticed her immediately as the beacon she was, and called her out of the class to talk. The female assistant principal was called and she dressed a bit more appropriately after that and sans glitter. Then, a few days later, the AP tells me the mother had a fit, asking how it was I had noticed this in the first place that I knew to call in another teacher. In other words, why was I looking at her daughter? A guy teaching school has his own set of problems. It is not the real world in any way.
Today, we had a cell phone difficulty. Cell phones must be off and out of sight. Not visible. Put away and off. If they are noticed by administration and we didn’t do anything about it, we are asked why we didn’t follow the rules. It is like that with dress code violations. If the end of the day comes and a dress code problem is noticed by an administrator, he or she will want to know why it was not reported first, second, third periods and so on right through the day. Did I mention I just want to teach English?
I have a student who is constantly fixing herself. She reaches her hand into her top, not surreptitiously, but with flow and show and flare, to readjust herself. This is continuous and occurs regardless of what sort of top she is wearing. This is punctuated only by her pulling her shirt down if not enough is showing over the top, then pulling it up the minute she notices boys staring at an area not her face, then pulling it back down because puling it up has pulled it above the waist of her pants and another view has just been presented. This is a constant hand and clothing dance. Does she care? Is it on purpose? Is she conflicted? I have no idea but am certain it could be fixed with a big ‘ol t-shirt.
“Ms. C. Checking to see if they are still there?”
“What?” the low neck of her shirt is pulled forward and she has her nose hidden by the collar. She is obviously looking for something in there. I’m explaining the notes on the board for the next Literary Analysis, and she is taking inventory.
“If you would look up here now, I’m sure they will still be there later.”
Today Ms. C had on something significantly smaller, lower, shorter and thinner. There was also something glinting each time she reached her hand into her top, round the objects kept not too well hidden to readjust. She’d pull it up a bit and the glint would disappear. A moment later, in my eye, a glare as the light from the window behind me bounces from something shiny and my attention is caught. Her shirt has tightened itself down again and something is shining.
The sequence plays again. As the shirt re-inches lower I again notice the object. It is a cell phone. Her phone might have been off but it was certainly visible. And it was poised to be noticed, noticed often and noticed well wedged, as it was, into her cleavage.
I remind you, this is eighth grade.
As far as drawing attention to oneself, this certainly accomplished it. Distracting. High incidence of distraction. But I said nothing. Nothing, that is, until after class as I walked out with the other students. Catching up to her I asked what her class next was. Art. I called down to the teacher after I got back to my class. Yes, she will look. No, it would not surprise her as she has spoken to her mother before and she is making a habit if calling attention to herself. She looks over as Ms. C. enters the room, or so I surmised as Ms. Art Teacher exclaims, suddenly, “O My Heavens.” Sure enough, that was it.
Ms. Art Teacher is amazed it took as long as it did for me to notice but tells me it was wise of me to not say anything. Have a female teacher point it out. Is that safer?
Did I mention I just want to teach English?