Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Missing Assignment

It was 2nd period in an environmental science class at the continuation high school. I was sitting in the front of the room. A disagreement began in the back. When the disagreement didn't get resolved after a couple minutes (they usually work it out without my involvement) and the volume increased, I knew it was time to insert myself into the situation.

Jeff was picking up books and flipping through them. Ernie was getting more and more upset: "Give me back my sh**!" And three other boys were contributing to the chaos by "staying out of it" while offering unhelpful suggestions:

"Get away from me. I'm not in this."

"It wasn't me. It was Jeff."

"Don't get me involved in this."

After initial confusion, I got the gist of what was happening. Someone had taken Ernie's paper (he had been doing the assignment). Jeff and the other three boys denied involvement. No one knew where the paper was now, but Ernie was going to get his paper back. If he had to beat up someone to get it, that was fine with him.

Jeff looked through everything. He took up every book in the vicinity and flipped through it. He begged the other boys to tell him who had hidden the paper and to give it back. All the while, Ernie was getting more and more upset (Ernie threatened to take Jeff's cell phone from him and sell it to get retribution). Finally, Jeff started digging through a pile of books that had nothing to do with the class, and Ernie's paper turned up.

Whew?

The other three boys laughed. They knew that game. They had done it themselves way back in elementary school. Then to magically have the paper turn up? That was classic, they said.

(Although, Jeff looked like he genuinely didn't know where Ernie's paper was, and he acted like he hadn't had anything to do with taking it. But he could be a very good liar. I have no way of knowing.)

This took long enough (5 minutes tops) that Ernie was no longer in the mood to do work.

The boys mellowed, and I was able to walk away.

Then, at the end of the period, Ernie asked the four boys again. Who had taken his paper and hidden it? All four professed innocence. They didn't want Ernie to beat them up.

I think Ernie was all threat, for no fights happened in class or after. But one of them did it. And they all lied very convincingly. This is why I don't believe much of what they tell me.

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