Last Tuesday's class:
The first class writing workshop discussion for which Flapjaw was present, he came in late. Again, dashing my hopes that he had either dropped the class to make room for a public speaking course or had catapulted back to the Mothership.
"Flapjaw," says I, "you do not
walk into my class late." (I never let anyone just sneak in late. I always bitch about it.)
He gave me an odd little salute.
"Is that odd little salute your way of telling me you will not
walk in late again?" I badgered.
"Yes," he flapped.
Since he had missed the previous class by showing up an hour late, he had not read the student essays we were workshopping, and therefore could only add a mild I-didn't-get-a-chance-to-read-this-but-here's-what-I-think comment about the small portions that I'd had the featured students read aloud. I sat wondering if there was any way I could withhold the papers from him every time.Thursday's class:
Flapjaw shows up on time. He sits by the evangelical atheist. Seems they are pals. They like to sit and mumble snarky things to one another.
We start the writing workshop. Flapjaw is to my right in the square configuration of tables. There is one person between us. Mickey. I'm curious to see how well Flap-to-the-J restrains himself in the aftermath of the little talk I had with him in the hallway last week. It went like this:I run into him in the English Building. Casual small talk. We are alone. I see my chance.
"Listen, Flapjaw," I say, "we're about to start workshops next week."
"Yeah. Yeah. And I--"
I cut him off. "And we need to have some balance in the classroom."
Nod-nod-nod-nod-nod. Apparently he agrees.
"So," I say, "as happy as I am that you're so enthused and have so much to say, you need to give the other people in that class a chance to earn their participation grades."
"Oh I totally get that. I know just what you mean because I--"
"I'll just tell you now, Flap, that if I do this" (I hold up my hand as I would if I were commanding a German shepherd to STAY) "that means you need to rein it in. OK?"
"I know. I've been in other workshops and I'm always the one who won't shut up. I'm not sure why that is. But yeah, I was in Professor Folton's class and I just kept talking and talking and talking--"
I look at my watch. "Wow...I'm late for a meeting."
Now we're in class. He raises his hand. He starts to make his comment. He makes a decent point about the essay we're looking at.
He makes another point.
And then while scratching his forehead under his long greasy hair, he strings on another random comment about the structure of the paper.
And then another.
I hold up my hand. This is our previously agreed-upon signal. STAY, Flapjaw, STAY.
He keeps going. The German shepherd has gone rogue.
I swivel my head away from the flesh furnace that contains vocal Flap-chords and look directly at another student. "Matthew," I say. "What do you
think about this?"
Matthew speaks. I see in my peripheral vision that Flapjaw's mouth is hanging open like a backhoe.
My tactic has worked, for the moment.
Five minutes left in the 75-minute class period, and I'm anxious to get it the hell over with and escape to my office to eat my veggie sub. I'm passing out the essays we'll workshop next time. There is much rustling of paper as people go about the business of take-one-and-pass-it-around. There is a low mumbling sound. It is Flapjaw passing along some almost certainly pertinent information to the atheist. The mumbling goes nonstop for the next 20 seconds as I explain to the rest of the students which papers we'll be doing in the next class; one of them is Flapjaw's.
Flapjaw comes up for air: "Can you tell me when my paper will be workshopped?"
I look at him and mentally size him up for a body bag.
Suddenly my beloved ultra-fine-point purple felt-tip pen takes on a life of its own. It forces my hand to lift it up. I point it like a poison dart at Flapjaw. As I speak, I jab the air with this little javelin for emphasis.
"Flapjaw (point). You would know
(jab) that if you hadn't
(jab) been over there YAMMERING
Mickey, who is the unlucky boy between Flapjaw and me has detected the murderous tone in my voice. "Hey!" he says. "Watch my eyes!"
"What?" I say.
"You're going to poke out my eyes with that."
In reality I was nowhere near his eyes, but I've noticed that Mickey displays an eye twitch in class. And on some days, a full-face nose twitch. This could mean issues.
"Sorry," I say, and pat him on the arm.
Flapjaw chuckles a little and enjoys the attention. There is no thwarting him. You cannot teach a child who doesn't understand a spanking. Years ago when some friends of mine were trying to discipline their little boy Ian, they'd give him a swat on the butt and he'd laugh. A little harder swat. Ian laughed harder. They finally had to give up and try time outs, which also made him laugh.
I will find Flapjaw's hinge and I will unscrew it and that steam shovel jaw of his will fall to the ground and shatter. And there he will be, just the sweaty forehead and the greasy bangs and the delicious silence.