The School of Hard Knocks

By Steven Law

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 26 2013 8:00 p.m. MDT

The rest of the day was a tragicomic play in three acts titled Max and Derek’s Magical Chaos Engine. For a little while I remained under the illusion that I was the director of this play but it was soon revealed that Maddening Max and Devious Derek were the true directors; I was but a mere player.

Act One consisted almost entirely of dialogue that went something like this: “Okay, everyone look at the social studies hand out I gave you. Derek get off of there and sit in your chair. Today we’ll be learning about landforms and bodies of water. A landform is the shape of the surface of the land. Max stop doing that. In some places the land is steep. Be quiet everyone. Now really, that wasn’t even that funny. Knock it off Max. In such places we may find hills or mountains. A mountain is one kind of landform. Seriously, Max and Derek sit down! And be quiet! In other places the land is flat. Flat land is called a plain. Plains can be grassy, but they’re not always grassy. Hey kid! Stop sharpening your pencil. And be quiet. Let’s try to be quiet now. The Mississippi River and the Great Lakes are examples of bodies of water. Yes, you. Kid with her hand in the air. Do you have a question? No you can’t go pee. Geez, we’ve only been in class for a half hour. Derek sit down. Max, shut up.”

The second act of Max and Derek’s Magical Chaos Engine featured some very daring stunts choreographed by Maddening Max and Devious Derek to the great delight of the audience. In this act Max and Derek rev the Magical Chaos Engine up to its ideal running speed of 10,000 RPMs. The Other Third Grade Teacher has a cameo in which she reprimands the students and suggests to The Teacher that he take away recess if the students don’t behave.

And indeed The Teacher threatened to take away recess if they didn’t stop talking and running around. Under this threat Max and Derek dialed down the Magical Chaos Engine to 7,000 RPMs, which was not enough to satisfy The Teacher, who indeed took away their recess. But taking away recess backfired on The Teacher as the kids were more restless and antsier than ever.

The curtain opens on Act III with the students returning from lunch to find that The Teacher had made some critical changes to the configuration of their classroom, namely he had moved Maddening Max’s desk to a solitary corner by itself, a change The Teacher hoped would disable the Chaos Engine’s central dynamo.

But isolating Maddening Max had the opposite effect, as the spotlight was then directed more exclusively on him. And seeing the spotlight shifted so heavily on Maddening Max, jealous Derek amped up his deviousness in an attempt to steal some of the attention back to himself.

One of the acts key dramatic moments came about halfway through the third act when The Teacher, addressing an unruly student, pointed to his red silk tie and yelled, “This is a power tie!”

The Teacher threatened to take away afternoon recess, but he was informed by his students that they don’t have afternoon recess on Fridays. Upon hearing this The Teacher delivered a revelatory aside: “You don’t have afternoon recess? Well, that explains a lot. No wonder these dang kids are all a bunch of hyperactive troublemakers.”

The Other Third Grade Teacher showed great comedic timing; always sticking her head in the door just when the Magical Chaos Engine was really humming along.

With his primary tool (taking away recess) taken from him The Teacher attempted one last desperate ploy to destroy the Magical Chaos Engine and regain control of the classroom, when he ignited the Charisma Bomb.

“Do you guys want to hear a story about the Pirate King?”

But the Charisma Bomb turned out to be a dud.

The final blow to The Teacher’s enthusiasm came when Student Number One says, “Since we’re not learning anything, can we just spend the rest of the day drawing?”

“If you guys stay in your seats and stay quiet you can spend the rest of the day drawing.”

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