Following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody for allegedly violating the dress code, protesters all over Iran have risen up against their horrible theocratic government. I wish them the best. I took two graduate courses from a delightful Iranian woman. I never inquired about her religious or political beliefs, but based on her rainbow stickers, androgynous suit coats, and faculty position in a university English department, I guessed that she wouldn't get along very well with the regime back home. On one occasion we watched a documentary she'd worked on about how Iranian women have had to leave their traditional domestic spheres to work in textile factories because their husbands are lazy, and then we met the director over Zoom and I asked him if this had led to any broader changes around gender roles in Iranian society, being very careful not to so much as imply the obvious fact that gender roles in Iranian society are irredeemably sexist because good folklorists aren't supposed to judge other cultures like that. So anyway, I hope current events lead sooner than later to the deaths or exiles of the religious fundamentalists in charge of the country. Maybe Ukraine's army can help out after they finish driving Putin to suicide.
I substituted at a preschool on Monday, and I wish I could just do that for every assignment because it was a blast. (Of course I checked beforehand to verify that I was only filling in for an aide and wouldn't be responsible for everything.) On the whole, the kids were much better behaved than some second grade classes I could mention. One kid in the second class screamed bloody murder for the two-thirds of the time that he wasn't sleeping, but I think that was a reasonable reaction to being abandoned by his parents in a strange place full of strange people for the first time in his life. When I arrived, the first teacher was like "A dude! We never have dudes!" Then she asked about my teaching experience, and I may or may not have imagined the look of horror on her face when I said two years at the college level and three weeks substituting, but I did fine because kids love me. They enjoyed scaring me with rubber ants and spiders, and then while I cowered on the floor this little girl that I hadn't yet interacted with at all walked over and sat on my lap, and I was just blown away by the innocence and trust behind that gesture, innocence and trust that unfortunately have no place in the real world.
Wednesday was the twentieth anniversary of my participation in a Red Grammer concert with my fourth grade music class. We practiced one of his songs for a few weeks and then performed it with him. My parents bought one of his CDs, Hello World, and it was in frequent rotation on long car trips. When I found this autographed concert flyer at my parents' house last year, I had no memory of the particular song I had practiced and sung. Because I'm neurotically obsessed with dates and I missed the nineteenth anniversary, I waited until the twentieth anniversary to look it up and be nostalgic. I still don't remember practicing or singing it.
The song in question:
Well, I unexpectedly got an interview request for a job that I must have applied to over a month ago before I gave up on getting something remotely commensurate with my education and experience, so while I can't get excited yet, I hope to move on from substitute teaching as soon as possible. The request came on the same day that I kind of got in trouble for failing to adequately control a class of second graders. Their teacher had left like half an hour's worth of work for them to do, so then they just got crafts and were kind of rowdy despite me asking them several times to keep it down. At lunch I apologized to the teacher next door for the noise level, and she straight-up told me that it was fine as long as they got done what they needed to get done. She said they were probably just excited at being able to speak English in what was normally a Chinese immersion class, but it was fine and we'd get through the day. Thereafter I stopped worrying about it. At the end of the day the lady in the office asked "How was it?" and I said "They were loud" and she smiled and said "But you survived." So I'm just a teensy little bit resentful that she or someone else complained behind my back about the noise level. If it bothered someone then they should have said something about it to me. But that's not how people do things, is it? I'm not very impressed with what passes for adult behavior in this society.
The other issue was that a couple of kids in the second class (after I switched with the teacher next door) offered to help pass out the fake money they used as a reward system for completing their assignments, and I appreciated the help because I felt overwhelmed and I trusted them because kids have often been genuinely helpful thus far. But then they or someone else passed out way more money than they were supposed to, and then a bunch of kids bought things from the little store because they misinformed me about the fact that they were only supposed to do so on Fridays. I told them we needed to stop all this and I warned them that their teacher would be pissed. Since I didn't know how much money each student was supposed to have before the incident, though, I figured she would have to be the one to resolve it and decide on the consequences. In my notes at the end of the day I explained to her what had happened and apologized. So I'm just a teensy little bit resentful that someone falsely reported that I handed out way more fake money than I was supposed to. And while I recognize that I messed up, I hardly see how it's my fault that students chose to be dishonest and take advantage of me. Anyway, this school told my employer not to send me there anymore, and I was removed from the entire district while they investigated. They reinstated me pretty fast but my assignments on Friday and Monday were canceled, and as much as I prefer staying home anyway, I am just a teensy little bit resentful about the loss of income. But whatever.
Before that little kick in the crotch, I was poised to write a happy uplifting post about how the exhausting and overwhelming experience with these second graders was worth it because some of the kids were so dang cute. Several of them told me I was a great teacher and/or the best substitute ever. Probably just because I didn't yell at them for being loud, but it was still nice. In addition to two cootie catchers, students in the first class left me a few notes that I will cherish forever even though my memories of that day are now considerably tainted.
This one was my favorite because the student who gave it to me was my favorite. She was so helpful with so many things that I feel like I should split my paycheck with her. She was like an adorable little TA. So I'm just a teensy little bit distraught that I'll never see her again because her school blacklisted me.
Although I have a strong preference for high school, I have to take what I can get, so I taught elementary school kids again thrice this week. They're very cute when they aren't hellspawn. On Tuesday I had a class of second graders for half a day. These second graders were much better behaved than the third graders from the week before, but oh my goodness they were a handful. They had so much energy and so many questions. I felt overwhelmed by the end and don't think I could have lasted a whole day, but I didn't feel frustrated with them or take the Lord's name in vain under my breath even once, so that was a win. The kids were also quick to tell me what I was supposed to be doing if I ever got confused. The wildest kid, whom the teacher warned me about, was also one of the most helpful. I think he just needs constructive outlets for his energy. Also when the kids were writing stuff about themselves, he made me happy and sad at the same time.
Him: How do you spell lore?
Him: Yeah, lore, like the kind of person my mom has to give a lot of money to because she's in a divorce.
Him: How do you spell anxiety?
Me: *tells him*
Him: *writes "Anxiety" on his paper under "I am special because"*
On Wedneday I didn't know what I was doing because the listing just said "Resource." I'd had two assignments with the word "Resource" in them - Resource Center where I ran the library, and Resource Intervention Specialist where I sat in the classroom and did literally nothing. I assumed this would be one of those two things but then I showed up and they told me I was teaching Special Ed. Crap, I thought, I'm not even remotely qualified for this. But it was super easy. First I tutored an adorable second grader in reading and writing. I couldn't tell why she was in Special Ed because she blazed through the lessons with few errors. Her only consistent issue was using e's instead of i's when she wrote down the words that I spoke, but since literally every vowel in English makes the same sound at some point, that seemed perfectly understandable. Then I went and sat next to another adorable second grader who needed occasional nudges to stay focused in class and assistance if she had a seizure. She didn't have a seizure so it was an uneventful hour and a half. At least as far as this age group goes, I much prefer the one-on-one stuff to managing entire classes and wouldn't mind doing it full-time.
On Thursday I had high school students and all I had to do was administer a test and show a couple of videos. After some difficulty with the teacher's weird computer layout, it was a snap. Here are the videos in case anyone else wants to become educated.
On Friday I had two fifth grade classes, one for each half of the day. It was a Portuguese immersion classroom but I didn't have to worry about that. During recess and lunch I read Dav Pilkey's Dog-Man in Portuguese, or rather skimmed over the words without really pronouncing them in my mind and got the basic idea because of their similarities to Spanish words. Partway through the day, all the fifth grade classes met in the common area for an assembly where several kids gave their campaign speeches for student council. The first kid had it in the bag. He looked like a future movie star, and he tossed away his notes and just spoke with such confidence and conviction that I'd pick him for US president in a heartbeat. Actually, I would have picked any of the kids for US president in a heartbeat. He'll win and a few others will win and the rest will learn an important lesson about life's many disappointments.
The kids behaved very well. The second class was a little rowdier, but nobody disrespected me, and I wasn't going to report anyone to their teacher to have points taken away, but one kid helpfully gave me a post-it note with the names of the bad kids in descending order of badness. The one at the top of the list was... interesting. She came in during recess - they all had to stay inside during recess because the air quality was so bad, probably as a side effect of the temperature dropping twenty degrees in two days - and wrote on the board, "Cats are the best. I don't care what you think. That is all." And when I actually had her class, she wrote it again, and then she wrote "Cats = awesome" and then she just wrote "Cat" a dozen times. And she asked me probing questions about my personal life. And she asked me like five times, "Am I being bad?" And she asked, "Am I being bad, or just obnoxious?" And she asked, "On a scale of one to ten, how bad am I?" I found her very amusing and I hope some stupid adult never crushes her spirit. Also, in the morning class a student was kind of rude to me but I let it go and then later she apologized on her own initiative and it was adorable. I want to teach these classes again, but I suppose I'd have to learn Portuguese.
Contextual world news for future readers: Today is the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, Queen Elizabeth recently died, and Ukraine is kicking Putin's жопа even harder than usual as it takes back its territory in an incredible counteroffensive. Also, monkeypox is probably still a thing that I should be more worried about than I am.
Substitute teaching elementary school children and middle school children who act like elementary school children is every bit as awful as I thought it would be. Not all the time - some first grade classes are better than some sixth grade classes, and some sixth grade classes are perfect but some third grade classes are straight from the bowels of hell. (I did a day teaching six sixth grade classes and a day as a librarian covering the whole spectrum.) But it's a gamble, so I'm definitely going to keep aiming for high school. Also, I didn't think my desire to reproduce could be lower than it already was, but surprise!
Yesterday I went outside just in time to see a teenager come down the road on a bike, and right in front of my apartment, the front wheel came off and the back wheel flipped over his head. He lay in a fetal position in the road with the bike on top of him, gashes on his forehead and wrists, and had a seizure. Another teenager came up behind him on a skateboard and screamed, "AW SHIT! AW SHIT! AHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHH!" That freaked me out more than the initial accident. I ran up and tried to move the bike, but when I pulled up on one part the other part went down, and I didn't want to make things worse and I figured the bike being on top of him was not the most pressing issue, so I ran back inside for my phone that I hadn't bothered to put in my pocket because nobody ever calls or texts me. For this guy's sake I put aside my hatred of Logan Regional Hospital and the Logan City Police Department and I called 911. I explained everything to the dispatcher, and then she put me on hold, and then another dispatcher picked up and asked the nature of my emergency so I explained it again and she said they already knew about it. Um, okay.
The skateboard teenager had also called 911, and he asked the injured one's name and age, so at first I thought they didn't know each other but of course he was just checking to make sure the injured one remembered. After the seizure, I thought for a brief awful moment that the guy was actually dead, but then he spasmed and then he tried to get up and his friend tried to keep him from getting up. His friend asked where it hurt and he said nowhere. I could see blood on his teeth as he spoke, but he said he was fine. A FedEx driver stopped to see what was going on, and an EMT stopped to see what was going on, and then the fire department and the police but not an ambulance showed up. Nobody knew how to contact his parents, so they debated for a moment whether to take him to the hospital. Why was that even a question? Oh right, because this is the United States, and the hospital bill might ruin his parents' lives. The police investigator asked me for my contact information and I gave it to her and I wonder if she recognized the name. The department leadership is very aware of who I am, and for all I know they've got an illegal file on me. I don't know what she even needed to investigate since no crime took place or was suspected. The second teenager came back later to pick up the wrecked bike, and he said he'd snapped (snapchatted, for you boomers) his friend and he was in a neck brace but seemed fine.
For anyone wondering, no, he wasn't wearing a helmet. Wear a helmet. I'm never getting on a bike again without a helmet.
Yesterday evening, my next-door neighbor tried to have a game night, but too many of our neighbors were gone for the long weekend so we just watched a movie with one other person. The movie was Back to the Future Part II because I selfishly always vote for movies I've already seen instead of trying new ones. Now, this next-door neighbor is ultraconservative (her word) and frankly her worldview disgusts me. She wears Thin Blue Line shirts, she identifies as anti-feminist while happily taking advantage of the rights that she owes to feminists, she unsubscribed from Disney+ because it's "too woke," she subscribes to the Daily Wire instead, and they sent her a Thermos labeled "Liberal Tears" that she likes because it's a good Thermos but now she's worried about offending her vegetarian roommate. I'm not offended by it, I just think it's pretty pathetic coming from people who tried to overthrow the government because their candidate lost. But anyway, I just stay away from those topics and I've managed to be her friend and enjoy her company anyway. Thomas Jefferson said, "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend." And yes, even though he owned enslaved people, he had some good ideas.
So in Back to the Future Part II, Michael J. Fox reprises his role as Marty McFly and plays Marty McFly's son and Marty McFly's daughter. When my neighbors realized that he was playing the daughter, they found that very amusing. Fair enough. But then the the super conservative one joked about how she'll get canceled and banned from all her social media platforms for not saying that Michael J. Fox is a beautiful woman, and they both went back and forth joking about that for a minute, just obviously poking fun at transgender issues and liberals. And this topic hits much closer to home for me than it did a few months ago, and I couldn't stay silent. I didn't want to make a scene in front of the other neighbor and in the middle of the movie, so I texted her, "I have a transgender sibling, so I would appreciate you not mocking transgender people in my presence." And she read it and then, with the maturity one would expect from the kind of person who drinks liberal tears, she went ballistic on me. How dare I be passive-aggressive, how dare I have the audacity to text her in her own apartment, how dare I not say what I had to say to her face if I had something to say. And she condescendingly explained that it's just funny that Michael J. Fox is dressed as a woman, that's all, and pretended like she didn't just say the overtly political stuff she just said.
So you know, I don't think I respect her at all anymore. And that's rather awkward, but whatever, it's not the worst falling out I've had with next-door neighbors. Just ask the police.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.