By Karis Lee
After R paws at my work computer, and J writes porn star on the bathroom sign out sheet, and H glues her false eyelashes to my desk, and M shouts you’re a pussy ass motherfucker in the middle of class, S says I am too strict of a teacher. She says this is why 3rd period hates you. I don’t know what else to do so I just say I’m sorry. This is the one thing about teaching I’m pretty good at. Sorry. Sometimes I wonder if my students can smell my perfume and if yes then I must be too close to them. In times of crisis I create distance, make my place near the projector, where I can still hear the soft sounds of their virtual shooting. I’ve learned my profession relies on proximity, on attention, my primary task cultivating a personality interesting enough to be seen, except on days like today I feel like background music, like a speck of dust on their eyelids. I will remember my students forever probably and they will forget me definitely. In a few years they will be putting their hands around steering wheels and pinning flowers on prom dates and maybe hopefully growing up and I will witness none of it, even though right now I am with them more than with my friends or even my boyfriend. Is there any other way to say it? I hurt daily. I hurt often. Children as they are, they hurt me. I feel like a teenager again, sharp and inconstant, searching for both a hiding place and a pair of eyes that will regard me with respect. H raises her hand and I say no, you may not go to the bathroom right now, I’m sorry so she snaps and says if we were the same age she would not be friends with me. I don’t respond but the truth is I’ve spent many a lesson transforming into my tween self, wondering if my students would sit next to me at lunch, if they would make fun of how I wear my mom’s hand me downs or if they’d see it as cool, sustainable fashion and like a statement or something. It’s true, I still remember, sometimes, in flashes, how everything is such a Big Deal when you’re young so maybe I should, as S says, take the stick outta my ass and let her be late sometimes and let H go to the bathroom even if it does always take her twenty minutes. I guess even now at 23 all I want is to fit in, for someone to not hate me and even tell me they like me and I’m doing ok.
Karis Lee is a middle-school-teacher. She lives and writes in Washington D.C.