The School of Hard Knocks

By Steven Law

For the Deseret News

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

My daylong battle against Max and Derek’s Magical Chaos Engine had drained away the last of my optimism, enthusiasm and energy. I had been soundly defeated. I retreated to my desk and slumped in the chair with the weariness of a man who has spent the day as an unwilling participant in a mosh pit.

Dear CIA: Forget waterboarding. Try third graders.

The students attacked the art center taking markers, crayons, colored pencils and drawing paper back to their desks. “Can we work together in little groups,” a student asked.

“As long as you can do it quietly,” I said. “But as soon as you get noisy I’ll separate you.”

But the students knew I wouldn’t do anything. They would be as noisy as they wanted to be and I was powerless to stop them. All day long I’d been yelling and scolding and issuing warnings with stern voices, all with no affect on their behavior. I could yell and wave my gun in the air all I wanted, but the kids knew it was loaded with blanks.

I loosened my powerless tie, and slid it down to half-mast to mourn the loss of America’s future. I opened the drawer of Mrs. Awesome’s desk to see if by chance she had any Advil, aspirin or Tylenol. She had it all!

I took two Tylenol.

On that same note: I think there should be an amendment to D&C 89. I think it should say, “And again, strong drinks are not for the belly. Unless you’re a school teacher.”

I mean, Utah ranks fiftieth out of 50 states in money spent per student, and they rank highest in student per teacher ratio, meaning they have the most students per teacher. Let the poor things have some whiskey!

I must have been looking forlorn and defeated because Mary Manners walked to my desk and held out her arms to me. “Do you need a hug, Mr. Law?”

I sighed. “I’m not allowed to hug anyone,” I said to Mary, which was too bad, because that’s what I needed most of all. “But we can high five.” We high-fived.

The Magical Chaos Engine had been throttled down to a steady hum of 4,000 RPMs with most of the students gathered in little pockets collaborating on art works. This level of chaos was very similar to every newsroom I’ve ever worked in about an hour before deadline. I actually found it kind of comforting. But it only made me further lament the demise of my former profession as journalist before the industry evaporated into the Cloud.

I gathered my resolve, and walked around the room checking on students, making teacherly comments on their art. “That’s really good. Is that a cat?”

Sweet Sara was sitting at her desk sobbing. “Sara, what’s wrong?” I asked her.

Talking just made her cry harder. She too was exhausted from having spent the day in the vortex of The Chaos Engine. “It’s just so much confusion!” she said, and she put her head down on her desk and kept crying. Sara will never be a reporter, which is just as well since by the time she’s old enough to be a reporter all news will be gathered by search engines, compiled by algorithms and uploaded directly to a chip embedded in your cerebral cortex.

One of the students raised his hand and asked, for the twentieth time that day, “Mr. Law can I go pee?”

Another student said he had to pee too.

Geez, why do third graders have to pee so much? Does everyone drink a six pack before class starts?

“Okay, I said, “but you have to go one at a time.”

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