It wasn’t one single incident that made me quit teaching in a public middle school. It was the steady, moldy accumulation of dehumanizing, lifeless, squalid misadventures of which I was a part. Like that time with “Carlos,” to pick an incident more or less at random.
I can’t even remember what it was that happened between Carlos and me. Anger, impatience, frustration, stupidity — and that was just me. Probably just another student who categorically refused to do as he was perfectly reasonably asked — open a book, pick up a pencil, hand in homework — or a teacher’s ineffectual attempts to come up with any good reason at all to learn the Pythagorean Theorem, or some such timeless knowledge. OK! Let’s say you have a ladder leaning against a wall. Suffice to say, our “conversation” ended without closure. But, evidently I said something that upset Carlos.
The next day I saw my friend the Dean of Students. He told me that he ran into Carlos’ father and a couple of his uncles; they were looking for my classroom. They had baseball bats. I am not the coach of the baseball team. There is no baseball team. In fact, there are no teams at all.