Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lunch duty and 2010

Four years ago I was sitting on lunch duty in the 45 degree hallway (not my name) at KMHS and guarding the door. Very much like Cerberus without the bonuses.

Lunch room duty is really what teachers will do who go to hell. If Gary Larson had been a teacher, he would have drawn the cartoon to mimic it.

For the first nine years of my teaching career at DCHS, the school was on a traditional schedule, and the coaches had one less teaching assignment (which was good for the students -- heh), and they did lunch duty. I don't think I stepped into the cafeteria at DCHS more than a few times the whole time I taught there.

My first years there -- they had a "smoke hole" -- also new to my world, and they were smokin' more than cigarettes. What can I say -- it was the 1970s -- that decade invented "disco." Need I say more?


DCHS was separated into many buildings, and it was rare for me to have a reason to step out of my "language lair" to go anywhere. When I had to travel to the math building, my palms would sweat. Math gives me rickets.

At my next school in Cobb County, I had floater duty in the lunch room, which was three flights of stairs down from my classroom and on the bottom floor.

All teachers had some kind of lunch duty -- but I mostly was a floater. The administrator on duty most of the time, Dr. Short, always said, "keep moving, keep moving," and if you didn't, he would make eye contact with you and make this little circular motion with his finger. I would walk and walk -- and that was back when I wore high heels to work. I used to plan my wardrobe thinking of lunch duty and the shoes I needed.

Dr. Short was a formidable administrator -- strict, unforgiving at times, but by the book. We used to call his little mantras "Shortisms." He was the old-fashioned kind of administrator -- a no nonsense, note taker, who paid attention to the rules. Every school needs one, and he was ours.

*waves to Dr. Short if he is out there*

If there was on good thing about being on lunch duty, it was that I had interesting conversations with teachers from other departments.

One teacher of the gifted lived in stream of consciousness, and all the stories he told me were "in medias res." I never completely understood him, but I found him downright entertaining.

Another teacher would crack me up -- as I passed him "Floating," he would tell me these outrageous stories about the kids he taught -- most of who had behavioral disorders. His world was so different from mine, and his humor, which was grounded in what was best for his kids, was legendary. He and I exchanged quite a few guffaws on that duty as we "kept moving" about the cafeteria.

It was on this lunch room duty that I saw a brutal fight that caused me to almost faint.... one child pummeling another to the level of blood splattering. It was real, and it was ugly. I had never seen such a level of punching.....nor that much blood except in the movies. I was weak kneed the rest of the day, and I had to be escorted back to my classroom. I turned, apparently, a white color that lacked confidence that I was "okay."

One year, I spent most of my time hanging around a table of students and exchanging wisecracks. I would walk, and by the time I got around to them, they were on to something else. They were hilarious in the way they passed time at lunch --- sucking down the jello, making up limericks and poems, building strange shaped animals with their tin foil, or seeing if they could laugh hard enough to make milk come out their noses. Uh, yeah, it was high school -- what can I say?

Somehow I gave you a history of lunch duty when I all wanted to do was tell this story:

But guarding a door from the cafeteria to freedom [in the eyes of the students] is different than floating -- even though, I wouldn't stand in line for either job no matter the health benefits. :)

I was doing my job on this particular day for this particular duty -- you can imagine -- watching five duty stations at once -- both restrooms, the students standing immediately outside the cafeteria on the patio, the students standing directly in front of me, checking hall passes from the classroom hallways to the cafeteria and vice-versa, and the two doors of which they could escape at any minute.

Absolutely the worst hall duty a teacher could draw -- unless it was standing in the traffic circle and directing the students from the student parking lot. For that duty, you better have an updated last will and testament.


So, as I stared and pretended to be all evil and "because I said so" with students that I only saw while on duty, I looked out at the patio at a table of students. One student stood, and I read his t-shirt -- on the back it read --- "Class of 2010."

Self: Class of 2010? Are you kidding me? I am in the future.

I don't know what it was about that number four years ago that sent me into a kind of contemplative apoplexy -- "OMG, it's the future," but it did. That number sounded so Aldous Huxley, Twilight Zone, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, so.....Douglas Adams that I did make the sign of the cross and filled out paperwork for retirement.

When I think of 2010, I think of that day -- when I had my epiphany -- my moment -- my understanding that ...... it's now -- we are the future, and I think I liked the past a little better. I was younger and thinner ---

Happy New Year and all that....

Cartoon -- New Yorker


  1. Funny! Maybe in your retirement you can return periodically and become a cafeteria monitor!

  2. I remember you calling me that day about that kid's shirt. You were absolutely freaked. I also remember a couple of spring breaks in the 70's in DAYTONA BEACH. Let's talk about disco and cigarettes. Maybe not. . .

  3. Ah, Dr. Short, I have not thought about him in years. I always liked him but would never mess with him because he was really nice and supportive but like your Dad in the sense you didn't want to disappoint him.

    Other than your Newspaper class, lunch was the next best thing in high school. I am curious who you are referring to when you were walking around.