Head Of The Class by Rish Outfield
The lesson plan was all set up, and the subject matter was something I was passionate about, but I couldn’t seem to get the class to pay attention. “The Declaration of Independence was the most important document in the history of this nation,” I said, trying to stress the need to listen. “It provided us with the basis for the freedoms that every one of you in this room enjoy every day.” I smiled as I turned from the blackboard to face the students. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that . . .”
My smile melted away, as not a single boy or girl in the class seemed to know what I was talking about . . . or care. “. . . that all men are created what?”
“Free?” the one boy who was taking notes asked.
“No,” I said quietly. “That all men are created . . .”
“Naked,” a gawking dark-haired boy muttered. Some of the students laughed.
“From screwing,” said a voice from the back.
“Smelly,” a red-haired girl with about a billion freckles chuckled.
“Equal!” I said, louder than perhaps necessary.
I had only been substituting at Wood Junior High for three days, and I already loathed most of the kids in this History class. I had been fairly beloved in the elementary schools where I’d subbed, and one kid at the local middle school had even given me some Pokemon cards on my last day. But nobody in this classroom seemed to think I was very special, or that anything I had to teach was worth listening too.
I put on my most dramatic voice, projecting to the cheap seats. “All men–and women–are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of . . .”
“Weed,” said that voice again, from the back row.
“Who said that?”
The kid had a sour face on him, and he looked at me with dead, hateful eyes. He must’ve been thirteen or fourteen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see those eyes on a long time felon or a wanted poster.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“You don’t know?” he asked, disgustedly. “You been here three days.”
He had a point there. Usually I spent my first day substituting getting to know the students, memorizing names. But I hadn’t expected to be here all week, just Monday and Tuesday.
“You’re right, I _should_ know. Obviously, you’re wanting me to remember you by calling so much attention to yourself. What is your name, young man?”
“Grsn‘terka,” he muttered.
“I’m sorry, what?”
He said it louder. “Grayson Paterka.”
Wow, what a monumentally ugly name.
“Well, Grayson Paterka, as I was saying, that famous line from the Declaration of Independence states that all men–all people–should be given life, liberty, and the pursuit of . . . happiness.”
“Isn’t that of interest to you?”
The boy shrugged.
“Well, it was a big enough deal to those men that they risked everything they had to ensure it for their children. Even you.”
His sullen face didn’t change. “Good for them.”
“Look, just put your head on your desk while I finish the lesson.”
He watched me for a moment, gauging me. He must not have seen much there. “No.”
“Put your head on your desk.”
“Make me,” he said, sneering. “What are you gonna do? You’re not even a real teacher.”
“You won’t be here next week.”
True or not, I had to wrest the control back from Grayson Paterka. “Well, I can send you to the Principal’s office. He’ll be here.”
No change. “Yeah? What’s his name? Do you even know?
The brat was right. I didn’t.
I took a step back, speaking for the whole class again. “My guess is, the fact that you’re being so loud and belligerent is to prevent the other students from learning, Grayson Paterka. So they don’t realize how dumb you really are.”
Of course, I shouldn’t have said that. It went in the face of everything they told us when we got our certification. But it was either insult him or slap him, and I knew I couldn’t get away with that.
“I’m not dumb.”
“Oh no? When was the Declaration of Independence signed?”
He didn’t move.
“It’s an important date for our country.”
Not a sound.
“Who wrote the Declaration? Where is it kept? Tell me who signed the document. Just one name. A lot of famous people there.”
Finally, he spoke up. “I don’t know, Abraham Lincoln?”
I sighed, theatrically. A tranquilizer dart couldn’t have stopped me now. “_Abraham Lincoln_. Not even born when the Declaration was signed. You’re an idiot.”
There had been titters from a student or three leading up to this, but now most of them had quieted. And as soon as I said it I realized I had gone too far. I had probably gone too far just singling the little shit out. But he had wanted it. He’d reaped the whirlwind, as my old man used to say.
Suddenly, he sat up straighter, his eyes aflame. “What did you say?”
I don’t know what had gotten into me. I usually liked kids. I enjoyed substitute teaching, even though it hadn’t been my first choice as a profession, and I’d only gotten into it after losing my job at the publishing house. Even so, I was passionate about education, and always considered myself somebody who made learning fun.
But this kid represented everything that got in the way of that–a lazy, brain-dead punk with no respect for authority, and prided himself on preventing others from learning.
So I didn’t let it go. “Idiot. In fact, Grayson Paterka–” I stressed his ugly name. I wouldn’t forget it now, would I? “–You are the king of the idiots.”
The child in question seemed to shrink a little in his chair.
The entire class had fallen silent. I glanced around them, feeling the adrenaline beginning to wear off. Okay, I had taken this a bit far. I went back to the front of the class, not looking at Paterka. “Kids, I’m sorry about that. I shouldn’t have lost my temper. These things are very important to learn, and you will be tested on them. And we need to focus on this subject so that when Misses, uh, Figgman comes back, you’ll all be caught up.”
I glanced at the lesson plan sitting open on the desk. There were bullet points of ten things to stress, all of which would be on the upcoming section exam. I forced a smile. “So, on what date was the Declaration of Independence signed? Please, uh, raise your hand if you know the answer.”
Seven or eight students raised their hands.
“Put your hands down,” a sullen voice said from the back. Grayson Paterka, back for more.
Amazingly, two of the kids actually lowered their arms, as if caught in some illicit act.
One of them, a fat boy, mumbled, “Yes, your highness.”
That was pretty funny. I couldn’t help but laugh. Quickly, I pointed to a brace-faced girl in front and asked for July 4th, 1776.
“Excellent,” I said. It was on that day that the founding Fathers proclaimed the United States of America to be a free and independent nation form Great Britain.”
I asked if anyone knew the names of one of those Founding Fathers. Instead of further demonstrating my ignorance of their names, I just pointed to random students.
“John Hancock,” one of the boys said, which impressed the hell out of me.
I pointed to a skinny black-haired girl, and she said, “Abraham Lincoln?”
A couple of students chuckled. The girl must not have been listening when I corrected the child from before. Grayson Paterka said, “Shut up, Kylie.”
The skinny girl–Kylie–instantly closed her mouth. A second later, she said, “Yes, your highness,” then covered her mouth with her hand.
This time I didn’t laugh. Two kids had made the same joke, but more importantly, they had obeyed Grayson.
I looked over at the offender. He was staring cock-eyed at Kylie, trying to figure things out. Finally, he said, “Kylie, say the Pledge of Allegiance.”
She began to mumble. “I pledgeallegiancetotheflagoftheUnitedStatesofAmeria…”
Grayson said, “Stop.”
She stopped, as though losing a game of Simon Says.
“Yes, your majesty,” she said.
This was crazy. They had to be playing some kind of prank here.
I went back to the head of the class, trying to get back on the plan. There were fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence that day in Philadelphia, and the signing has become . . .”
Grayson turned to the boy who had put his hand down before. “Bosley, clap your hands.”
The boy did it, mumbling something.
I had to regain control of the situation. “Benjamin Franklin was there on that day, and he said about the occasion–”
“Everybody flip off the teacher,” Grayson ordered from his seat.
To my horror, six or seven of the students raised their middle fingers in my direction. As some were saying, “Yes, your highness,” I saw two or three more put their “birdie” fingers up more subtly, hoping I wouldn’t see them.
“Class!” I shouted, feeling my face begin to flush. “Put your hands down. This is not funny.”
“Everybody stand up,” Grayson commanded.
Literally half the class got up from their desks. Grayson stood as well, looking them over like a drill sergeant.
“Sit down!” I shouted. “This game is over!”
But it wasn’t over. Grayson smiled and said, “All the boys hit a boy that’s not standing up.”
Sure enough, all the sitting male students were suddenly assaulted by the standing ones. Some of the boys barely tapped the other students; a couple really walloped them.
“Stop!” I shouted. “I’ll get the principal up here if there’s one more outburst.”
A brainy-looking boy (the one who’d identified John Hancock) began to cry, having been struck by more than one fellow student.
“Grayson, sit down!”
Grayson didn’t obey me. He turned to the standing female students. “All you girls kiss each other.”
They got to it.
“Hey!” I began, but Grayson was already continuing his little puppet show. He turned to a pretty blonde. “Jessica, take off your shirt.”
As she moved to do so, I leapt in front of her, trying to grab her hands. “Listen to me. Don’t do what he tells you! You don’t have to listen to him.”
“Alex,” Grayson said to one of the kids who’d really pounded the sitting boys. “Punch the teacher in the nuts.”
I let go of the girl and blocked myself as the large boy swung for my babymaker.
“Stop it!” I said to him, and addressing the rest of the class, “You don’t have to obey him!”
Behind me, there was a gasp. The poor blond girl had already gotten her shirt off.
I screamed at her. “Grayson is _not_ in control of you! He’s not–”
Holy shit, this had been my doing. Somehow, these kids–the dumb ones, anyway–had fallen under Grayson’s spell, forced to do what he told them, because I had proclaimed him their king. Like some kind of mass hypnosis.
“Jessica, come make out with me,” Grayson said to the girl he’d ordered stripped to her bra. She stepped forward.
“No!” I cried. “Grayson is not king of anybody! Do you hear me? He’s nobody’s king!”
But she was already in his arms, her mouth on his. His hands cupped her ass like something out of a late-night Cinemax flick.
Grayson squinted at me from between a mass of blond hair. He smiled big.
This was my fault, somehow. This was some kind of magic. Next the kid was probably going to tell his “subjects” to burn down the classroom. If I had controlled my temper before, just kept my big mouth shut . . . Calling a student names in front of a class, I must be some kind of idi–
“Everybody dance!” Grayson Paterka called out.
My hips began to sway.