The teacher’s lounge can be a scary place to be. I have been assigned as the school psychologist in no less than 10 different schools in the past few years and have seen my fair share of teacher’s lounges. Each one has it’s own culture. Sometimes, I judge a school by the collegiality of the Teacher’s Lounge. There was Peace Elementary School* which sported a Teacher’s Lounge/Book Room/Ant Farm that I avoided like the plague because every time I went there I got the inappropriate disclosure from the teachers. I’m a psychologist, not your psychologist so I’d rather not hear about how you are cheating on your husband while I eat my sandwich. Also: not interested in your porn addiction.
Then, there was Haides Middle School’s Teacher’s Lounge.* One could not really call it a “Teacher’s Lounge” as it was more of a classroom with microwave and a copy machine. No one ever sat down in there except me. I was all eager “let’s consult!” newbie who quickly learned that some lounges are toxic to the soul. This room should have had a dark, rainy cloud over it in manner of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. It wasn’t a lounge, but really just a scowly-teacher waystation, filled with inappropriate judgments about the kids. I never went in there again after I asked a teacher how the Jones twins were doing and the teacher said, “Jim is a crack-head nitwit, but not as big of a crack-head nitwit as his twin.” Lovely.
But I have digressed from the knife fight. It’s coming, I promise.
The Teachers Lounge I was in the other day is a nice attempt at fostering joint-lunch consumption. However, I have never seen anyone in there but me. Some teachers fly by to grab something out of the fridge, say hi, and quickly dart back to their rooms. So I eat alone. In order to entertain myself, I spy on the children at recess through the window. It is quite a show. The fun game I play every day as I sit down to eat, is “Let’s hop right back up from my meal, poke my head out the window and break up a play fight.” I intervene early in the chain of behavior because play fighting is the gateway drug to real fighting. But today I really wanted to eat my lunch warm. I watched the beginnings of a play fight as I ate my salmon, fashioning myself as an ethnographer of tweens:
12:08pm. Subjects engage in hierarchy-establishing pseudo-aggression to establish dominance. Note smiling while pushing.
And then, out comes the knife. Crap. I should have intervened earlier. To my credit, I could tell that it was a giant fake knife, so instead of panicking, I mentally noted the backpack from which it came and the students who touched it. I have been through grad school and know that eyewitness testimony is flawed and I didn’t want to make a mistake. Most school districts have a zero-tolerance approach to fake or real weapons. I went outside and opened my hand for them to give it to me. They played dumb for a second until I told them I was in the Teacher’s Lounge and saw everything. They tried to pass one over on “La Blanca”** by talking in Spanish to each other about their lie. HA! I know what “mochilla” means! Gotcha!
And the moral of my story is: Eat in your own classroom or office. No, wait, sorry, it’s to intervene early in the chain of behavior and have more supervision in “hot spots” like the one near the Teacher’s Lounge.
*Totally a pseudonym.
**Kids who don’t know me have actually called me this. The White.