The news recently carried the information that some schools in Kershaw County would be delayed by two hours. The reason was vandalism of school buses. I am certain many individuals self-righteously thought or said, “We would never have done such a thing.” Remembering just a few activities might give new insight.
Shortly after the interrogation occurred, all the commode lids in the boys’ bathroom received a coat of black paint. Psychologists would enjoy dealing with the symbolism involved here. The gossip was that the new students had painted the lids to show their power. All I knew was that it was a wasteful and foolish activity. One young man came to me and said, “Ms. P., I would not want you think any one of us did this. We don’t have money to spend on what we want, much less on this type of behavior.” His remark made sense to me since I had grown up extremely poor myself. When the culprits became known, they were Caucasians of affluent families. Miraculously, the commode lids became white again. Why such miscreants were interested in the bathroom remains a mystery to me, but toilet paper disappeared or festooned school and grounds on occasion.
Everyone has heard of stuffed pillows, stuffed peppers and stuffed toys. Few people, however, have heard of stuffed toilets. The teens -- who used sweaters, coats and any available material to plug the toilets -- could not be said to show favoritism! Teachers, students, all had no means of relief until plumbers could rectify the matter.
I remember one individual who sowed the ground outside Phelps Auditorium with salt, an activity which would destroy the grass. The principal, being an astute individual, discovered the culprit or culprits and gave a fitting punishment. Those involved had to dig up several feet of the poisoned dirt and replace it with topsoil. I certainly never heard a parent complain the punishment was too harsh, and the activity took place when everyone could see the work. The work was done by the boys.
Of course, there was the young man who, according to rumors, watered the bushes outside the home economics’ room with a unique hose attached to his own body. Since Ms. J. would probably have sent anyone to detention who mentioned that boys and girls have different anatomy, I have no idea what happened to him.
Another activity enraged the principal so much that he either quit or decided to seek another position. It amused me. One of my gifted students released a very large number crickets. The summer heat and humidity made them sing beautifully and unceasingly. The young man was the son in a very influential family, so when the principal gave the edict that the boy would be denied his diploma, the family showed its strength. The principal had to give him his diploma. I would have said that, naturally, the young man would receive his diploma and have copies sent to various colleges, but only after he had removed all the crickets. Total silence from the crickets would bring release of the diploma.
Perhaps the most idiotic and unreasonable prank occurred when three good friends decided to paint another friend’s bus with cow manure. Student drivers could then drive the buses, and this individual took great pride in his bus, keeping it clean and shiny as if it had been a Mercedes. Why did these youngsters perpetuate such a prank? Who knows? Actually, I think some teens are crazy! The pranksters had to spend time in detention. One of them was my student. When he returned, I said, “____, do not ever had me your papers anymore.” He replied, “But Ms. P., we didn’t use our hands.” I answered, “I don’t care; surely you must be crazy to have such a stunt, and I don’t want you too close to me.” Of course, he knew I was joking.
I am not joking about the impossibility of knowing what teenagers will do. They act without thinking. Working with them is always surprising, annoying and impossible -- but never boring!