Monday, December 1, 2008

In love with Mr. M

“Ms. K, we will be quiet if you write a love note for us to deliver to Mr. M.” S announced assertively. She’s the class president, full of confidence and swagger.
“Yea!” the rest of the class echoed her bargain.
“No – that’s not how this works,” I said, knowing fully well that with this class, one which was uniquely cohesive, this was exactly how it would work. “There will not be any love letters written during class today. We are learning about the explorers coming to America.”
It’s really a lost cause. The kids have been pushing this for weeks, asking me if I like Mr. M, a young, white teacher in the school who teaches 7th grade math. We share 100 students, and in the minds of that 100 there was romance blossoming in our dingy school.
“Ms. K – I think he likes you. I asked him who he would pick if it was between you and Ms. R and he said you because Ms. R is too serious!”
“That’s very nice, but I think that he is just messing with you,” I always reply, trying to kill the rumors.
“No! He’s cool – he talks to us. He said you’re pretty.”
Undoubtedly, he too has been pushed into saying ridiculous things in the interest of getting to the class material. I will often concede a small point in order to win my battle. They beg me to send him a message with them, and I’ll break down, “Fine – tell him I say hello.”
“That’s all?!?!”
“Tell him Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Ooooooooh,” they say, with a chorus of giggles that makes me roll my eyes and laugh at their ridiculousness. It’s largely a diversion tactic on their part – desperate to do anything to avoid learning about the Native American culture. But just a little bit of them is serious, and the two parts combined make them relentless.

“Ms. K – you’re eyes are so blue – they are JUST like Mr. M’s! You two would have such good looking kids! They’d have blue eyes and blond hair, and you could name them Stephanie….” For a moment they have me, ready to respond to this rather than push on through the reading. But I catch myself and call on someone to read. The student gets through a sentence before someone interrupts.
“No – wait – but seriously Ms. K. I’m not even kidding. I think he likes you. He told us! I’m going to tell him you said he looks fine today!” Shit. Now I have to respond.
“No – don’t tell him that – I can just walk downstairs and talk to him myself if I want to – no need to deliver messages.”
“Aw – you’re gonna tell him you think he’s looking tight today, aren’t you?
“Oh! Ms. Klein – are you going to blush?!? I think you’re going to blush.” And my stupid cheeks betray me, reddening on command. They collapse into laughter, and in my head I chant over and over to myself how silly this is. I don’t like Mr. M. I’m not embarrassed. I’m 23 and they are 12. But I’m blushing like a 12 year old and can’t seem to pull it back together.
“Stop!” I snap at them. “Mr. M has a girlfriend! And I am married!” Married?! What was I thinking with that! They all ask me daily if I have a boyfriend and I say no! Married?! I wish I was wearing my ring so I could at least move it to my left hand.
“You’re married?!”
“No – I’m engaged,” I feel better about this lie.
“Where’s your ring?” Naturally, this is the moment when they choose to be observant and look for clues. G-d forbid they did the same thing when we were reading Howard Zinn.
“I’m poor. No ring.”
“Oh.” They get that.
“So Mr. M and I do not like one another – we are not single!”
“So?! That don’t matter!” Ugh. Again they have managed to take me farther down a road than I ever meant to go and I am standing at the front of the class wondering how to get back to where I started and where I went wrong.
“Oscar – will you please read the next paragraph?” Oscar generally will demand the attention of his peers before reading, and I am counting on him doing this. When they continue to talk about Mr. M and I, I calmly remind them that the work will be done one way or another, turning into homework if it isn’t completed in class.
“Miss K – I’m going to tell him how you blushed and that you love him!”
“Fine,” I give in, tired of the game, and thinking that this will end it.
“OOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooh!!!” The crowd goes wild in excitement. People hold up signs with ‘Ms. K + Mr. M = LOVE’ written on it. I roll my eyes to see how many of them have misspelled my name even in this.
“We’re going to tell him!!!!”
“Fine. But not until we finish the work!” The class reluctantly settles and we read through the page, filling in the blanks. At the end of class they dash off towards his room, and when I come downstairs later on, I enter the room sheepishly. He laughs.
“I thought that there was someone seriously injured from the way they ran into my room in a panic,” he says.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“I winked at them,” he says, shrugging, as helpless as I.
“What did they say?”
Ridiculous kids.

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