Of Turkeys and Teen Drama

Last night’s snow didn’t even last until morning. By the time I got up, it was all gone except for a few stubborn remnants on the neighbour’s roof.

The internet, it seems, has pretty much shut down thanks to the American compulsion to eat turkey at this time of the year. To quote one of my students, “But turkey is yucky. Why don’t they just eat Grünkohl (North German specialty traditionally served in late November) instead?”

I’m not a turkey fan myself. The meat is way too dry, hard and stringy for my taste. Though the stuffings sound intriguing and I do like some of the side dish recipes that show up on food sites around this time of the year. Most of my collection of sweet potato recipes and several brussels sprouts recipes were originally Thanksgiving recipes. Sweet potatoes don’t have much of a tradition in Germany, so you have to resort to American recipes. Though at least according to this article, food writers secretly hate having to come up with all of those new and exciting side dish recipes for Thanksgiving, because apparently the majority of Americans make the same stuff they always made, even if green bean casserole (what is it with Americans and casseroles?) with canned onions (canned onions? Why the hell would you need to can onions?) sounds dreadful.

I had to deal with some teen drama at school today. A kid just packed up his stuff, grabbed his coat and walked out, in the middle of the lesson. I went after him with an indignant “And where do you think you’re going, class isn’t over yet” and found the kid in question huddled in a corner refusing to come back in, because some other kid had apparently mortally offended him and anyway, he hated his whole class and wanted to change classes and preferably schools and so on. The kid in question is fairly sensitive and easily offended. Just last week, he was very upset, because one of the cleaning ladies had been rude to him. Never mind that this woman is rude to everyone, teachers and students alike. The kids all hate her.

I hate that sort of drama (not the first time I’ve experienced something like this, though at least this case didn’t involve a kid bursting out in tears), because it’s so hard to deal with. For starters, those “I hate you forever and will never ever forgive you” dramas usually unfold quietly and pass below my radar. It’s easy to crack down on physical tussles (though you risk getting a stray kick) or loud flinging of insults back and forth. But if the problem isn’t loud, you often don’t notice right away. Plus, many of those dramas have their roots outside the classroom and thus outside the teacher’s control altogether. Thinking back, there had been trouble brewing between those two kids from the start of the lesson on, e.g. they had previously tussled over who got to help me take back the overhead projector to the adjacent classroom, until I picked a different kid altogether.

Anyway, I dragged the offending kid out of the classroom to apologize (all under the very curious noses of two fifth-graders who were waiting outside their own classroom for their turn to play hide and seek – because every drama needs an audience), the offender played the innocent, the offended kid didn’t even want to talk and so on. Two girls from the same class finally persuaded the boy to come back in. I have no idea what they did to persuade him (they asked for privacy, which I gave them) nor do I really know what the problem was. All I could gather from the garbled account of both boys involved was that someone had sneezed on someone else and that one kid had hit the other. I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than that, since the kids constantly sneeze on each other and hit each other. Never mind that if a physical altercation was serious enough to generate that sort of drama, I would have noticed.

That’s another problem with the really bad “I hate you forever” drama. Most of the time, the kids won’t tell what really happened. Last year, I had a student who was constantly getting into trouble. One week he made a girl cry, the next he got beaten up by an older girl who made him cry and so on. I had no idea what was going on, only that it always involved the same boy and that he had the tendency to take on kids who were older and bigger and would inevitably loose. Eventually, I found out – because one girl finally did tell – that he had the habit of whispering sexual slurs – really nasty sexual slurs of the unprintable and unbloggable variety – into the ears of random girls. Kid got a serious lecture afterwards.

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