Monday, May 4, 2015

Ex Post Facto

My 8th grade music class was particularly boisterous. The middle school was being renovated that year, so we were shoved in some kind of makeshift used-to-be superintendent's office? We had a first year teacher. I'll call her Miss L. One thing I liked about Miss L was that she started every day by playing a song, and we would journal about it--what instruments we heard, the mood, the tempo, etc. What I didn't like about Miss L was basically everything else.

That class was important to me because I don't remember having many friends in it. Most of the honors kids I was usually saddled with were in band. This was my time to experience what the rest of my peers were up to. Some key things I remember were getting up to do a presentation on my favorite musical artist--at the time a ska band--and a girl said I was probably going to talk about Dreamstreet, which is completely embarrassing because Dreamstreet was the dumb spin-off BSB made for teens two years too late. I had referenced the group and their "hit" once at a Girl Scout trip ironically. This chick did not get irony. I didn't know what irony truly was at the time, but I felt shamed for trying my hand at it. And now I go to satire school.

I also remember when I ran for class president a guy who ran opposite me asked his friend, "Are you going to vote for me?" He chuckled, "No dude, I'm voting for SNAP" (which was my team's ticket name). I thought that guy was pretty bold to make me the butt of a joke one foot from my seat, but I was weirdly not bothered. Despite the fact that that one dude got fewer votes than me, it was a daunting use of (ironically) irony. That jokester made a point to talk to me at our middle school reunion when we were seniors in high school. He asked if I was going to Harvard, and when I said no he was like, "Why not?! I thought for sure you'd go to Harvard." I googled him last year and the only hit was a police report from a DUI he got two summers ago.

So, Miss L. Kids were chattering and joking and goofing as usual in her class, and she said every time we misbehaved she was going to write a letter of "MUSIC" on the white board. So, we kept misbehaving, and by the end of class all five letters were up on the board. She then announced any day we made "MUSIC appear" we did NOT get a sticker on a chart. And if we filled the chart with stickers, we got candy.

"There are so many things wrong with this," I thought. 1. Kids should not be rewarded with candy. 2. Huge boxes of every kind of candy imaginable were available every single day in the cafeteria for 50 cents a bar. The prize for a month of perfect behavior was worth two quarters. 3. We had just learned about ex post facto in social studies class. It meant you're not allowed to make a law in retrospect. And that's exactly what Miss L. did. She explained the rules around her "good class" test after we had already failed. I raised my hand and said this. "We should get a sticker for today because what you just did violates ex post facto." She gave me the biggest, nastiest eye roll I had ever seen.

My reaction was, "I guess that's not how it works here. Or maybe I didn't understand the concept like I thought I did." But the classroom should be a just place, and I did understand. The eye roll, it haunts me. But in a good way. A way that reminds me it might be me who knows a thing or two.

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