September, 1997. It was my first week of being a substitute teacher at Fallbrook High School, and
Brandi was laughing. But it wasn't an audible laugh. When the kids would laugh at my jokes, Brandi's would usually be the loudest and longest. But this was the kind of laugh that said, "Your fly is open," or "You forgot to comb your hair."
No, it couldn't have been anything that obvious or the others would've been laughing too. Now I've dealt with high school students long enough to have a pretty good grip on maintaining order in the classroom - but this morning the half dozen or so problem people (including Brandi) had been a little more vocal than usual, and just didn't want to stop yakking.
Well, I finally got everyone quieted down - except Brandi. She was still whispering to the girl in the next seat. But she'd stop each time I looked at her - and start again as soon as I looked away.
Finally I asked her to move to another seat. She complied, but her eyes were still giving me that silent laugh that said, "What's an old fool like you doing here anyway?"
I went back to the board and began illustrating the next assignment, when suddenly I heard a shriek come out of Brandi. When I turned around she was back in her regular seat looking daggers at a boy across the room.
This caused me to momentarily loose my cool and I snapped, "Hey, what's going on here? I thought I told you to sit over there."
Now Brandi was shouting. "Well, I'm not going to sit next to some guy who's flipping paper clips at me. So I tried to be mature about it and just move away. And I was being quiet,
so I don't what you're yelling at."
When I asked who flipped the paper clips she got even more upset. "I'm not going to sit here and rat on another student - so just leave me alone."
It was obvious who had done it - and when I told him if there were any more paper clip incidents he'd be out of the class, he gave me an innocent "Who, me?" look - but didn't deny anything.
In the meantime, Brandi had stopped laughing and begun looking very disturbed. This was definitely out of character. Her normal demeanor was one of just putting up with being there and allowing me the honor of her presence for an hour or so each day.
In any case, the class finally settled down and I was able to get the assignment on the board and everyone back to work - well, everyone but Brandi. When I'd look her way she'd try to respond with one of those "I know a secret about you" laughs - but it was obvious she was fighting to hold back a flood of tears. When the bell rang she came over and said, "Mr. E, I'm really sorry I yelled at you. I shouldn't have done that."
"I'm sorry I yelled at you, too," I replied
She smiled, and we probably would've hugged each other - but I guess we were both subconsciously aware of the environment of veiled threats we live in re: teachers touching students.
Anyway, all's well, and Brandi's back to stifling that silent, knowing laugh that still has me wondering if I forgot to comb my hair or left my fly open.