One time, when I was (Assistant) Teaching 6th grade Science, back before I was a full time teacher again, something funny happened. It probably wasn’t too funny for the students involved, but reflecting back, it was pretty darn funny. Funny is funny, and this was funny.
The incident involved two boy students, Freddy and John. Freddy and John had had a feud for the entire year. The other teachers didn’t know what started it. I definitely didn’t know what started it (I had only come in the last quarter as a sub first, then teacher assistant later), but we all agreed that there was something between them. Magical, you might say, if by magical you mean evil magic rather than some happy fairy tale, clap-your-hands-to-make-Tinkerbell-come-back-to-life magic. They were enemies, pure and simple. Other junior high boys tease and try to get each other in trouble not because they hate the other, but rather because it is fun (I never said it made sense, just that they think its fun). Occasionally, however, one encounters a pair that consists of two boys who truly wish the worst for the other.
This was the case with Freddy and John.
This particular incident happened, as I said, in their Science class, the last period of the day. John had already had problems with the Math teacher earlier that day (he had colored his fingers with a pen and then tried to leave marks on the classroom wall), and I had spoken to him as well. That was my job: walk around the classroom and tell kids to stop talking/pay attention/read/stop rocking the chair, etc. The lesson for the day in Science was erosion. Ice, as everybody who’s out of grade school knows, erodes rocks. Glaciers erode even more. This was the topic of discussion that period. We have glaciers in the
The lesson on glaciers continued, and I walked around the classroom to make sure everyone was paying attention, etc. As I approached Freddy and John (they sat next to each other for some reason), Freddy turned to me and said Mr. Rose, John keeps saying “I hate
I didn’t say that, John snapped back.
Dear God, I thought. Maybe if I tell them to stop talking and walk away, they’ll drop the issue.
Stop talking. Pay attention. Read along.
That settles that, I thought, walking away from the two of them.
A few minutes went by, containing in it much walking and correcting, and eventually I found myself standing by my desk in the front of the room. Suddenly, John appears next to me.
Mr. Rose, he said, Freddy wrote “I hate
Seriously, I thought. Go sit down, I said.
So John returned to his seat. I continued my tour of the room (stop talking. Pay attention. . .). When I arrived at Freddy and John’s desks, Freddy turned to me, and holding a piece of paper said, Mr. Rose, John wrote this and gave it to me.
Told ya he’d do it, John replied.
I took the anti-Canadian paper, as well as a piece of paper that each of them had been working on, and returned to my desk.
Now I don’t claim to be a handwriting expert. A half-hearted forgery could probably get past my grasp. What I do claim, however, is that I can recognize people’s handwriting, especially if I have another copy of that person’s handwriting for comparison. I had planned, foolish me, to compare the writing on the anti-Canadian sheet with the handwriting of the two students. Good idea in theory, horribly wrong in practice.
Right away, I noticed a problem. The anti-Canadian sign was written in print, in big letters. The two writing samples were written in cursive. Cursive and print look very different, even when written by the same person.
Great, I thought. Handwriting’s out.
I stared at those three sheets of paper for almost the rest of the period, trying to figure out what I could use to prove one of the two boys wrote it. Either way, someone was framing the other. If Freddy had done it, it was a pretty standard revenge inspired framing, simple enough. If John had done it, the framing was more elaborate, since it required him telling me ahead of time, almost warning me, that some sort of trick was coming. All I had were doubts. I didn’t trust either of them.
But then, what’s this? Hope? A silver lining? It appeared that both the anti-Canadian paper and Freddy’s paper were similar, as if they had come from the same pack. The one John used was very different. That’s it, I thought. I have him. Freddy framed John.
I waited until the end of class, as they were dismissing at the end of the day, to tell the two what I had found. I proudly told them what I had decided, and told them to sit down. Freddy started crying, emphasizing that it wasn’t him.
I told you it wasn’t me, John said.
It was the paper Freddy. It was the same.
It wasn’t me, Freddy said.
Robert likewise denied it, and I said, quite slyly, I thought, that neither would go to class until someone admitted what was done.
Ok, I did it, Robert said. Can we go now?
Why did you do it, I asked.
I don’t know.
Have you ever been to
Do you plan on every going to
Do you know any Canadians.
Yes you do. I’m Canadian, Freddy whined.
You are? I didn’t know that.
Dear God, I said. God heard a lot from me that day.
So can we go now, John asked.
No. John, you know I can have you suspended for this, right?
Why did you do it?
I don’t know.
What about the paper? I told them about my thought about the paper, it being the same as Freddy’s. . .
I got it from ____ [a girl who sits near them], Freddy said, referring to the work I had taken from him.
Yeah, I got the sheet from her too, John said, referring to the anti-Canadian paper.
Fine, you know what? I said, ripping the anti-Canadian paper in half. Write “I hate
A very long time.
Almost a full minute to write the three words.
I haven’t written print in a long time, John said.
Bull, I thought.
I sent them on their way, keeping the printed “I hate
So I talked with some teachers, the Math/Science and the 6th grade homeroom teacher, and they explained that a) the two boys had been at each other’s throats all year, and b) that it could be either one, handwriting wise. Nothing new there. I was still working with nothing but a suspicious confession and dubious writing.
I told the principal the next day, and she thought it was hilarious.
Like I said, funny.
The principal wasn’t there the day after that, so I couldn’t talk with her about the situation. Lucky students, since neither were getting in trouble. It was the end of the day, and I was packing up, when in walked John and his mother. They were there to talk to the Math/Science teacher about grades and behavior. At first I was tempted to leave, but then realized my opportunity. Before they left, I called John over and had him write on a piece of paper “I have a dream,” a phrase that I figured would not set off any alarm bells. John did as he was asked, and I kept the paper, waiting for the principal to return.
She didn’t come back before the following Monday.
(TO BE CONT.)