Better people than you

Sally, as you probably know, teaches at a tough middle school. It’s the kind of place with pregnant tweens waddling the halls, gang graffiti decorating urinals, and the occasional 11-year-old packing a handgun. Sally’s been at her school for years now, and she sees her job as routine as any office gig.

At dinner, I’ll ask how her day went, and she’ll flatly tell me it was fine, and then she’ll pass the steamed carrots and say something like, “You remember my student, Jorge Cienfuegos?”

And I’ll say, “You mean the kid who tried to beat up the teacher and the cop last year?”

And she’ll say, “Yeah, him. He was busted with three pounds of pot in his locker today.” She’ll toss that grenade matter of factly, while I’m scooping carrots onto my plate, like it’s hardly worth mentioning, her middle school student showing up with a backpack stuffed with weed.

Earlier this week, a seasoned teacher, who fought in Vietnam, substituted at Sally’s school for the first time.

The vet held it together in the morning, but in the afternoon, with kids zipping around his classroom like howler monkeys on speed, the guy lost it. “In Vietnam,” he chided the students, “the US government paid me 412 dollars a month to kill better people than you.” He stormed out of the school that afternoon, promising never to return.

Sally, of course, found the story of the vet funny.

I, of course, found it vaguely unsettling.

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2 Responses to “Better people than you”


  1. 1 Manda October 2, 2009 at 7:53 am

    It’s always fun dinner conversation when we discuss one of Paul’s student’s p.o., which is short for parole officer.

  2. 2 Teri October 6, 2009 at 6:45 am

    That is an awful thing to say to children. Even thuggy children. For their sake, I hope the unhinged vet never does return.


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