Michael Harrison

Michael Harrison

A weeklong electronic journal.
Nov. 2 1999 9:30 PM

Michael Harrison

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I'm making announcements during break with my bullhorn: "Students may drop off cans for the Thanksgiving Food Drive in MacArthur Hall; freshmen--be sure to turn in permission slips for your class trip; will the following students please see Mrs. Donovan in the Development Office this afternoon ..." The bell rings, signaling that break is over.

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I use my bullhorn to herd the students back to class. (Is this why it's called a "bullhorn"?) The seniors are the most difficult--they've become inured to the bullhorn and, as they have the admonitions of their parents and teachers, learned to tune it out. I need to call each senior by name to get them to move.

Senior Stan Robinson stops me as I'm trying to motivate a pack of juniors who look comfortable on a picnic table. "Mr. Harrison," he asks, "can I use the bullhorn to make a quick announcement?"

Normally this question is a slam-dunk. "No" is the reflexive answer, followed by "Go to class." And yet today, on a whim, I hand the bullhorn to Stan. Stan hurries away from me and leaps on top of a nearby table. He turns on the bullhorn and begins making the percussive sounds of a boom box while waving one hand in the air. The students, en route to class, stop to watch. He begins to rap:

"Ki-yi-yi, yippee yo, yippee-yay. My name is Stan, and I'm here to say, that I'm in the groove, that I'm feelin' good, that I'm sayin' it loud like ya knew I would."

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The boom box sounds again.

Students look nervous; Stan has hijacked break, hijacked the bullhorn, hijacked school.

"Stan!" I call out. "Give me the bullhorn!"

Stan looks worried as he hands the bullhorn back. I'm scowling. "Uh-oh," he says. "Am I busted?"

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I leap onto the same table Stan had been standing on. "Ladies and gentlemen!" I say. "Senior Stan Robinson! Let's give it up for Stan!" The students clap and laugh.

"Now go to class!" I yell into the bullhorn, aiming for Stan.

******

Just got back from lunch, where I blew it.

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At the beginning of lunch, I'm sitting down in an empty cafeteria, doing some work. Students begin to file into the cafeteria, and the table next to me quickly fills up with sophomore girls, each of whom has a glass of milk and two pieces of cake. I notice the cake and ask them, "What, no lunch?"

"No, it's cake day," Jenny replies. "We want to see if we can break our record--30 pieces for the table."

"Doesn't sound too healthy to me."

"Feel this muscle!" Alissa, the star of our girls' soccer team, demands, flexing her biceps. "I'm plenty healthy! Besides, cake tastes good!"

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I laugh and go back to my lunch.

Later I'm in conversation with a student at my table when Mrs. Green, our music teacher, grabs me by the shoulder and points at the table of sophomores. In the middle of the table is a stack of approximately 30 cake plates.

"Mr. Harrison!" she says, glaring at the girls. "What do you have to say about all this?" The girls look up from their cake and await my reply.

"About what?" I wonder, but don't say out loud. "About poor dietary choices? About selfish cake consumption? About whether they broke their record?" I don't want to challenge a teacher in front of students, and yet I'm not particularly concerned about the cake. I'm stuck.

So I jump down the girls' throats.

"I think there's a real problem with all the cake you're eating," I tell them. "There are a number of other students here who may want cake and won't be able to get any because you've monopolized it. It's selfish--why don't you take a piece at the beginning of lunch and then if there's more left at the end of lunch, you can have another piece?"

The students make an attempt at lighthearted banter with me--the same sort in which we had engaged only a few minutes before. "Maybe they could make more cake since it's cake day! ... What about cutting the cake up into smaller pieces so we can break our record?" But I'll have none of it--not with Mrs. Green standing next to me, scowling at the students and watching my every word. I shake my head sternly at the students, say some things about "community" and "broadening your perspective," and walk out of the dining hall.

It isn't until I get halfway to my office that I start to feel like an asshole. If teen-agers are sensitive to one thing, it's hypocrisy. And I have just defined the word for them--I went from being their buddy to being a cop within the course of one lunch period.

Should I find the students? Talk to Mrs. Green? I guess I'll just chalk it up to rocks and hard places.