Tight is not a good thing to be. Tight means angry, frustrated, upset. The kids feel triumphant if they can make one another, and most especially, if they can make me, ‘tight’. They always give themselves credit for it – ‘Ah! You tight!’ they will exclaim when they see that they have upset you. The things they do to make one another and myself tight are countless, and often surprisingly creative.
They spend a lot of time making fun of one another for how poor they are.
“Your mom is so poor, my mom gives her food stamps!”
They make fun of one another’s clothing and accessories and notebooks and pens. If they ever ask for something or don’t have something, they are immediately called out for being too poor to afford pens, or pencils. Several of them have a big reputation as thieves, and they will grab things off of my and other teachers desks and pocket them. The kids always see this happen and turn one another in. This is called ‘snitching’ and it is the worst of all crimes.
“Michael took your markers!”
“Michael, you so poor you can’t afford markers. You always stealing, you're so poor!”
“Stop snitching – you a snitch!” And they both have lost, because while it’s not good to be a thief, it’s even worse to be a snitch.
Despite their apparent inability to afford school supplies, they do some to school with sidekicks (phones) and Jordans (shoes). To me it all looks the same, but they can spot a fake from miles away.
“Get outta here with your nasty-ass fake jordans!” everyone will turn to inspect the allegedly fake footwear, and the kids will think fast to come up with a comeback. The other day one student was mercilessly accused of having a ‘prepaid’ phone plan, and he tried to defend himself.
“No – I got monthly! I got a monthly plan, I ain’t poor!”
In reality of course, they’re all poor, and some of them realize this more than others. They argue about it and grow embarrassed, but maybe it’s best to make it a joke.