Substituting at an Alternative High School

I was called for the first time to substitute at the local alternative high school. Alternative high school in this case means kids who don’t fit into the regular high school. Some of them have been kicked out of the regular school because of legal infractions, unacceptable conduct in school, drugs, and general rebelliousness. They are highly intelligent, for the most part, and have learned to function in their own situation to get the most of what they want—whatever that means—but for one reason or another comply with the law that they must be in school until they are eighteen, or have been graduated from high school.

I decided I would not cross them. As long as they stayed in the classroom and didn’t hurt or destroy anything or each other I wasn’t going to tell them what to do. They are all on independent study and know their assignments.

There were about twelve kids in that second period morning class. They all were doing their own thing. A few were studying. Most were talking among themselves. Two of the girls were doing their best to attract the boys’ attention—and they were excellent at it.

One of the boys tossed a girl’s purse across the room to a fellow sitting on a beanbag. He opened it and started commenting on what he was finding—pictures, makeup, and the like. Then he said, “Oh, some rubbers,” and pulled them out to display to everyone.

“Yes, I keep condoms in my purse,” announced the girl.

The boy was examining them. “This one is leaking. The lubricant is coming out.”

“Let me see it,” the other girl reached out and he gave the leaking package to her. She opened the package and unrolled the condom so that it was full length. Then she put it up to her mouth and started to blow it up like a balloon. She had been chewing a huge wad of bubble gum and blowing bubbles all morning. The condom reached about eighteen inches long and eight inches wide. She explained to me, “I want to see how safe these things really are.”

Another boy said, “Here, give it to me. She did and he put both hands inside and stretched it to slide down over his head. Everyone was watching and laughing by now. He got it as far as his nose, and then pulled it again until it covered his face, over the chin. When he breathed out his mouth the air bubble expanded the rubber on top of his head—like a rounded Conehead.

The first girl grabbed her camera. “Here, I have to get a picture of this for the annual.” He re-breathed that air while she took the picture. He looked kind of like the people with stockings over their heads—the face was distorted, but the surface was shiny and reflected the light. His features were clearly visible under the rubber.

When he took it off he said, “Well, no one will be able to see who it was.” We all disillusioned him on that score immediately. My belief is that the reflection of the flash may mean you won’t be able to discern his features in the finished photo.

Not forgetting my responsibilities as teacher I said, “Everybody, the bell’s going to ring in five minutes. Let’s put everything away so none of us will get in trouble.”

End of episode.


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