“Come on. We’ll split one. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Most of us have uttered some iteration of this line over the years. On a tame day, we might have been speaking of a donut. A bolder evening might have found us thirteen and smiling over a small bottle of Grey Goose. A few months ago, “special” brownie in hand, I hopped around my co-teacher in our classroom repeating this line over and over again. She really didn’t need much convincing and we giggled while we stuffed the brownie in our mouths right before lunch. It was the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving break, and we were having a party for the kids…what’s the worst that can happen?
Fast-forward a few hours.
“Watch this,” a few of my favorite boys holler, green cupcakes in hand. They climb on top of three chairs that they had lined up in front of the classroom and proceed to sing “I am bringing sexy back” while twerking enthusiastically, as “the popular” girls dance somewhat suggestively around them.
A “normal” teacher’s response: “Boys get off those chairs right now or this party is going to end and you’ll all be doing work for the rest of the day!”
My response: “Woo-hoo!!! You go! Who needs a club when you got this?!!!”
My co-conspirator walks into the room while I am cheering and dunking Doritos into chocolate fudge.
“Five minutes. I was gone for five minutes, Ms. R,” she says calmly.
“A lot can happen in five minutes, Ms. C,” I scream, literally drooling with laughter.
I grab her and we dance around the classroom, “Yo-ing” and “Whatchyadoing” and “That’s madddddd work” and eye-rolling each other, pretending to be twelve-years-old, which doesn’t seem to require much effort at all.
Our wonderful kids stare and chuckle at their silly teachers.
At one point, I am on the floor laughing while she throws candy into my mouth and the kids count how many I can get in.
The craziest part of all of this is that not a single child thinks something is off because we tend to act like this on a regular day anyway. No one knows that I am swimming laps in our blue floor, that the empanadas are the most delicious thing I have ever tasted, that I love every single one of my students so much it makes me want to cry. No one knows. All they think is that Ms. R must have had an extra cup of coffee that day.
And then it begins.
“Can I go to the bathroom?”
“Can I get a drink of water?”
“Can I go to Room 317 for a minute to borrow some napkins?”
“Can I go downstairs? I need to speak to Mr. C. about something super important.”
“Can we just sit in the hallway? We will be right outside the room – we won’t go anywhere else!”
Usually, these incessant requests would vex, occasionally to the point of anger. Today, however, in my glorious lucidity, I recognize that my students have but one goal: to leave the room. They want, above all, to escape the confines of these walls and wander out there, to gossip in the bathroom stalls, to sneak a kiss on the stairs, to visit an old teacher, a younger sibling, to do anything, be anywhere, but here, for just a few minutes. And I understand that desire, that longing to be free, that adolescent urge to transgress boundaries. Today, I remember it all so vividly: sneaking out of my bedroom window to go to the alley at night, bounding out of the classroom to visit my boyfriend at the top of the stairs, leaving a friend’s house where my parents had dropped me off to race to another’s, to go where I was not watched, to be unrestricted, even if for just a few minutes.
Today, I remember it all.
Today, I want to keep them safe and let them be free.
Today, I want them to forget their crushing insecurities.
Today, I want them to love their Wednesday afternoon in seventh-grade, when they are allowed to sing in the hallways and dance in our room.
Today, I look at their fresh young faces, and wish the entire unbearable beauty of the world for them.