A few of you have been asking for stories from my new job as a para, which I continue to love. I find it uniquely challenging, interesting, and rewarding in ways that no other job I’ve held has been. Each kid is their own puzzle, and it is a daily process of trial and error to see what will get each one of them engaged, excited, and on-task. While simultaneously not indulging or enabling bad behaviors.
There are some kids that are just born trouble-makers. And while some of them make me want to pull my hair out in frustration, there are others that are just such a joy that even when they’re causing trouble, you’re hiding a smile behind your Authority Figure Scowl. One kid in particular, we’ll call him Carl for the sake of these stories, subscribes to a line of thought that Elim Garak of Deep Space Nine would approve of: “The true lesson of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ is never tell the same lie twice.”
So far this year, Carl has attempted various excuses to escape from his classwork, some of which actually worked. While there’s the standard “getting a drink of water” and “going to the bathroom” claims, he’s also thought a little more outside the box than most kids. He told a substitute teacher that he had special permission to look at the fish in the class fish tank after he completed 10 minutes of writing. At lunch time, he convinced a fellow student he was allergic to cheese, then ate a whole bunch and claimed he was having trouble breathing, at which point his distraught friend notified the Nurse in a panic and Carl got to sit in the Nurse’s office while his mother was called. However, my absolute favorite excuse so far happened last week.
I was sitting at my little para desk, working on some signs for the classroom, when Carl came up to me. At 10:30 he’s usually pulled by a focus teacher for an hour to work in a smaller group of students. We’ll call his focus teacher “Ms. Mary.” Carl approaches me and says, “Mrs. Childs? Ms. Mary said that today I should go to her class at – um – at – uh – she said I should go early.”
“Really?” I asked in my best dead-pan, “And what time, exactly, did she say?”
“She said, uhhhhhh….” he slid his eyes to the side and then stared intently at the clock, which read 10:13. “hhhhhhhhh she said 10:15,” he finished, nodding to himself in assurance.
“I see,” I replied, “Well then, why don’t I go with you?”
He blanched, eyes getting a little larger. “No! I mean – I’m supposed to go early today. It’s my early day. That’s what I’m supposed to do.”
“Carl,” I turned up the no-nonsense in my voice, “I. Am going. With you.”
He gulped and nodded, but ceased to protest. We stood up and left the classroom. Halfway down the hall, he stoped me and looked up, fidgeting slightly.
“So…so if it turns out that I’m NOT supposed to go early…uh…then I just made a mistake. Okay?”
“Okay,” I said, “Are you sure you still want to go? Do you want to change your mind?”
“Nnnoooo,” he replied, “But…remember…it was just that I made a mistake, okay?”
Needless to say, he was most certainly NOT told by Ms. Mary that he was to come early, and we got to have a discussion on the consequences of telling things that weren’t true, and the benefits of trust, but I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. How often in films and shows does the secret agent start out his lie with “I assure you…this is ALL just a SIMPLE misunderstanding!!!”
What’s the best excuse you’ve heard (or made) for getting out of something?