Today is the beginning of semester exams. Today is also the ending of rational thought and behavior.
Forget everything that teachers have taught their students. Forget the appreciation of literature, the analysis of symbolism, the construction of a well-written essay. All of that has been tossed out the window in a panic to make room for the perfect grade – a meager percentage which will keep a student at her perfect “A” or keep another from failing the class.
Students wander, push, shove, fall, slink, and slam into the classroom. They yell obscenities at one another in the hallway and get tangled up in each other’s earbuds while trying to kiss, hug, and say goodbye to the love of their young life. Ninety minutes of isolation from one another seem unbearable and cruel, although each one promises to text the other to ensure the relationship is still going strong.
The bell rings. The teacher steps up to the front of the classroom, wondering if it is truly nobler to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and to endure a series of irrelevant, off-topic, base questions; or if it is easier to just tell them to all be quiet and then handout a trivial exam that will only adjust their overall grade by a small percentage. A “Hail, Mary” pass for only a small few who are on the brink of going up or down a letter grade.
After the exam has started, one student opens up a bag of chips and starts crunching and munching. The teacher gives him the stank eye. Another girl shakes a bag of hot flame Cheetohs in her mouth and then smears the orange flakes of dust across the exam. The teacher gives her the stank eye and then casually walks over and takes the Cheetohs and bag of chips from these students and throws them in the trash all while giving them the stank eye. One young girl doesn’t understand why it’s not Ok to make a tuna fish sandwich in class during the exam, while another boy has just gotten kicked out of class for bringing in White Castle in which the grease that has leaked out of the bag is now smeared on a desk.
In the middle of the exam, another student from another class walks in and asks if the teacher will edit his final essay. She gives him the stank eye but sits him down and marks up his paper for revision so he’ll get a passing grade. And after the final bell rings, all the students leave class pushing, shoving, falling, slinking, and slamming into one another in the hallways and getting their earbuds interlaced with the arms of their long lost boyfriends and girlfriends. Just when the teacher thinks it is safe, another student walks in and demands she grade his late work so he doesn’t fail her class. The late work is from late September and early November. Today is December 17th. The teacher gives him the stank eye and tells him to leave her class and go see his counselor. He will need to give up one of his “easy” classes next semester so as to retake the English class. One he could have passed had he turned in his work the day it was due.
As the teacher stands in the middle of this hurricane of hairy, hormonally-challenged humans, she mutters a mantra that she has been reciting since the beginning of the week: “Please don’t let me murder my students. Please don’t let me murder my students. Please don’t let me murder my students. And if I do, please spare the one who just left a box of milk chocolate truffles on my desk. Unless it is a bribe to get me to change his grade. Then, may the blow of my red ink pen be swift and fierce.”