Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Pretzel in English Class

So...we had quite the incident in my 11th grade English class today.

At the beginning of class, I notice that a certain young man has brought one of those big, yummy, soft pretzels to class with him. He has it on his desk and is slowly tearing off little pieces and eating them. It's not every day a kid brings one of those delicacies into my room, so it immediately catches my attention.

Well, a few minutes later, I notice that this same boy is particularly sleepy during my mini-lesson on in-text citations for research papers...not that I blame him. I allow him to continue his short nap (as I wish I was napping myself), but when I get an opportune moment, I walk by and gently tap his shoulder.

"Walter, (name has been changed) wake up!" I have to prod him several times before he drowsily raises his head, drool on his cheek, and looks at me in confusion. "Do you need to go to the nurse?" I ask.

"No," he responds, voice slurring. "I'm okay." (Just remember, as my story continues, that he had this moment to escape--and he refused it.)

So, I continue with my oh-so-interesting lesson, and not ten seconds after I'd prodded him the first time, he is asleep again. We're not talking head-nodding, lightly dozing. He is DEAD TO THE WORLD asleep--his nose is actually inside one of the holes of his big pretzel as he snoozes away.

The other kids and I exchange glances of concern/amusement, but since we are headed down to the computer lab, I decide not to make a big deal of it. As all of the students file out of their seats, he wakes up, grabs his pretzel, and joins his enthusiastic classmates on their way to research.

Ten minutes later...we're in the lab. Everyone is working diligently. Students are tapping away at their keyboards, pouring over books, and composing brilliant essays. I look over, and, to my surprise, "Walter" is not as eager as the others--in fact, he is slumped over to one side, mouth open, cheeks slack--he is barely staying in his chair. With the way his body is contorted, he actually looks like the pretzel that is sitting beside his computer--uneaten and forgotten.

Now, I've seen some tired kids in my day--but this is a whole different type of tired. The lack of control of his body, the inability to speak clearly, the drooling, the staggering...he can barely stay in his chair.

I whisper to my co-teacher, "What should I do if I think a student is high on something?"

She takes one glance at Mr. Sleepy Pretzel Man and runs to the office for help.

When the security guard returns with her, I intercept them at the door. After all, I don't want to accuse this kid of anything...maybe he stayed up late helping his sick grandmother with her medicines or his little sister with her homework or feeding the homeless with a church youth group activity??

"Jay," I warn the security guard, "I don't know anything--I just suspect."

Well, Jay--who has lots of experience with drugged up kids--doesn't need more than a quick inspection of poor "Walt" slumped in his chair to make the pronouncement. "The kid's stoned out of his mind!"

Oh my. When Mr. Pretzel opens his eyes long enough to realize who is standing in front of him (it isn't friendly Mrs. is the entire school security team, the school nurse, and a couple of administrators), THAT woke him up in a hurry! (I've never seen a kid look so guilty in my life!)

Jay later told me "Good work!" for my prowess at detecting young druggies disguised as innocent pretzel-eating students.
I have to admit as a P.S. that this experience, although it makes for a rather humorous blog post, actually totally ruined my day. I hate realizing all that my students go through and the ways that they hurt themselves and their bodies. But since I still have 50 essay outlines to read tonight, and am therefore trying to keep myself in an upbeat, cheerful mood, I'm not going to write/think about that right now. It makes me too sad. Another day.


  1. Getting stoned is not "going through" things. It is harmful to their bodies, but Mr. Stoney-Stonerson is no poor innocent kid "going through" something. Some people do turn to drugs to drown out tough things, but in affluent schools when kids are smoking pot at lunch with their buddies that is not usually the case. If ever. Trust me, I would know. Remember my stellar high school boyfriends? Jeremy Stone? Enough said.

  2. Crazy Rach! What a wacky Wednesday. You are such a great teacher to take such news to heart. I hope this incident can become a positive turning point in Walt's life.

  3. What a story! I guess now you'll be more prepared for if there's a next time. And now I know what to look for too....

  4. wow! what an experience. i hope everything works out for walt. and good for you.

  5. Wow Rachel. I haven't had that experience as a teacher yet and I hope I never will seeing that I teach elementary school. You are such an amazing teacher.


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