The things I got in trouble for when I was in school

As a teacher, sometimes I feel like my most challenging students come to me as karmic retribution.

I was mostly a good kid. I talked way too much, but I always got good grades. But every once in a while, I did something out of character. Or every once in a while, my teacher made a bad call. Whatever.

Here’s the complete list, to the best of my memory.

In first grade, me and some other girls got sent to the office for drawing smiling faces inside our letters and putting crayons in our shirts like boobies. I don’t remember getting in much trouble, but I remember being scared. I also remember thinking my teacher was a bitch. My mom never found out because after that I realized pretending that crayons were boobies was very shameful and I didn’t want her to know. (Massive eye roll.)

In fifth grade…well, in fifth grade, I was hormonal. I was a tomboy, so I wanted to play tag with the boys, but I wanted to play kissing tag. I got in trouble for that.

Then there was the time that me and some boys were rough-housing all morning. We went to art class and made paper-mache masks, and while Peter was lying prone on the ground, I stepped on his junk. Not all the way! I knew better than that! But I got sent to the office. Rightfully so. The principal told me about the grasshopper and the ants by way of telling me I needed to start storing up food for winter. He and his wife left after that year; he was kind of phoning it in.

In sixth grade, some of us were throwing paper balls when we had a substitute teacher. He told me to pick up a ball that wasn’t mine, and somewhere in my juvenile head I decided this was my moment to prove myself to my peers who never thought I was cool. “I ain’t your dog and I ain’t picking it up!” I said. He wrote me up on an official yellow form and sent me down to the principal’s office. The principal said she was surprised to see me there and told me to act right.

In eighth grade, a girl on my bus threw a banana peel out the window and it landed on the lap of a kid in the other bus. Funniest thing ever. The bus monitor didn’t think so. He didn’t know who did it, so he sent a bunch of us to the principal’s office. She asked us all who did it like four times before the culprit burst into teenager tears. The rest of us were allowed to leave.

(I would like to say here that at that time (c. 1994) and place (Abidjan) our bus monitor was an ARMED Ivorian man and we still couldn’t not act like brats. I don’t have a gun–no wonder no one listens to me.)

In twelfth grade, I got to school early to finish an art project that was due. The bell for homeroom rang and I ran upstairs to ask my homeroom teacher if I could stay in the art room. She said no. I said “fuck” under my breath. She thought I said “fuck you” (I really didn’t) and sent me to the principal’s office. He scheduled a meeting with my mom and told her I had an attitude problem. My mom told him unapologetically that it was genetic. My philosophy teacher was the guidance counselor at the time and he also met with me and my mom. He said he was shocked at me: he was up all night, unable to sleep, wondering how I could have been so disrespectful. (I really wasn’t.)

I had to meet with my teacher, the principal, and the guidance counselor for saying “fuck” under my breath. This is why I don’t seize days, y’all. This is why I always try to think twice before I tell a female student she needs to calm down because I do not want to be responsible for creating girls who are afraid to be bold.

In college, my then-boyfriend and I got suspended when I was caught in his room after visiting hours (Christian college). Ironically, we didn’t even sleep together that night. We were just hanging out. I had to call my mom in Taiwan and confess what I had done with the director of student affairs watching me. She got on the line to reassure my mom that I was taking responsibility for my behavior like an adult. My mom, who by my age had already left the Navy, had a kid, and been married twice, laughed at her.

I wish her attitude was genetic.

I’ve gotten speeding tickets, but the only time I’ve gotten out of one was when I was behind another car going even faster.

I do miss those West Virginia country roads…



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