Wednesday, December 22, 2010

THE DAY OF THE SCHOOL WALKOUT

The new high school in the district had opened up two years before to accommodate the growing student population.  It presented itself immediately with something we had not had before.  We now had a true rival.  It wasn't just a rival based on the athletic teams of each school but on anything involving the two schools.

The old school where I attended did not have air conditioning.  The new school did.  They had a nice big gymnasium with a new state of the art basketball floor while we had a tiny gym with an old wooden court that had loose boards and creaked every time you walked across it.  They had a nice new theatre while we had to stage our plays and musicals in our tiny gym.  The new school had wide hallways and new desks while we were stuck fighting our way to class through crowded little hallways to sit at desk that "Tony from the Class of '66" had used long ago.  The district had decided not to build a track and stadium at the new school thinking that the stadium and track could hold the requirements of both schools.  They were using our stadium and our track for their activities.  This was considered to be not cool to those of us still attending the old school.

Of course we had a lot of things that they did not have.  We had a history that was documented in our library and our trophy case.  There were several wood trophies in the shape of the state of Missouri indicating a state championship in some particular event.  They did not have any trophies of any kind.  We had traditions and standard cheers for our school that they had not developed yet.  We had a pool hall and a small shopping center across the street while the new school some sitting in an old farm field hidden away from any kind of civilization  In other words, we had someplace we could go to when we skipped school.  They had a large parking lot with plenty of spaces for the students while we packed our cars into a tiny fenced in lot where you were guaranteed two or three dings in the course of a year.

It was towards the end of the school year and most of the students were anxious for the year to be over.  We were attending and going through the motions of getting an education.  Most of the teachers wanted to be there as much as the students did.  It had been a hot and muggy spring so far and no matter how many windows you opened you were still going to be miserable.  It was like this almost every spring it seemed like.  Counting down the days until you could stay at home and relax staying cool with a sprinkler or a swimming pool and doing what you wanted to do instead of what the teachers said you had to do.

Then a rumor started making its way through the classrooms and hallways of the old school.  It was having a different effect on different people but the most common response was not one of joy when hearing the rumor.  If the rumor was true and if what the rumor said would happen did indeed happen it was not going to be pretty.

Apparently the new school's air conditioning had broke down.  The new school was too hot to kip the students in.  The district decided to dismiss the students of the new school early because it was just too blasted hot of an environment for them to learn in.  As we sat in our classrooms wiping the sweat from our foreheads it naturally occurred to us how unfair this development was.  We had been coming to school everyday knowing it was going to be hot and that we were going to be miserable while they went to school everyday with nice cool rooms to look forward to.  The rumor further suggested that when the students at the new school were released from their prison, they were going to come over to our prison and chide us for having to stay in class all day while they played.

Plans began to be made.  I am not sure if anyone knows who hatched the plan but before long it had spread through the school that if they came over to tease us we would promptly walk out and take care of them on our way home from the hot nasty building.  Half a day for them would mean a half a day for us and we would make sure that it was fulfilled.

Eventually news of the plan made it to someone on staff at the old school.  Teachers began to warn us that a walk out would not be tolerated, that we would all be suspended, the usual threats that teachers pull out when they don't know how to handle a situation.  I don't recall anyone voicing the opinion that maybe we should think this over because of the threats from the teachers.  They couldn't suspend all of us and we knew it.  The walk out was on.  The teaching the students from the new school a lesson of our own was still on and going home for the rest of the day was certainly still on.

They arrived at about one o'clock that afternoon.  Some of them had the nerve to wear their orange colors onto our turf.  You could hear the taunting coming from the open windows about how they sure were hoping we were enjoying our day in school and that they hoped we weren't too hot being stuck inside our little old prison.  I looked around and saw other students looking around at each other.  Messages were trying to be sent by way of eye contact.  Are you going to go?  are we going to do it?  You could feel the tension as everyone waited for that first student to stand up and walk toward the classroom door.  Nobody moved as the teacher went over to close some of the windows as if that was going to make us want to stay in this oven.

It wasn't long before the school administrators came out to chase the orange clad demons away.  It wasn't that difficult to do.  They had their fun and were more than glad to go get a burger or go home to a cool house.   Then I looked out the window.  I saw some bodies walking away from the school.  Bodies that I recognized  First I saw Howard, a senior that I had made friends with during algebra classes.  Howard wasn't keen on learning or being in school so it was no surprise that he was taking this opportunity.  Then I saw Kenny and Doug.  Soon their were several bodies from our school walking away from it.

Then it finally happened in my room.  Kevin stood up and looked around the classroom for a second before walking determinedly to the door and out.  Soon others followed and when the classroom was half emptied, I decided to do my part in this rebellion.  I stood and walked out in the hallway.  There were several other students making their way down the hall and out the side doors into the sunlight and followed.  It was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up.  We had all seen the protest of students on the television news and we felt like we were a part of something larger.

As I stepped out into the hot sunshine I glanced around.  The administrators were out taking down names of students who were leaving.  They new most of them by sight because for the most part, the students that were walking out had previously had some interaction in the principal's office.  As I watched I noticed they were being given one last chance.  Either they write your name down as you continue to walk away or you could go back in the building and nothing would be said about your transgression.  I stood there at the door for a few minutes watching as my fellow students made their decision.  Most were heading back into the building.  As one of them walked past me back into school, I turned and followed.

The great walkout was over.  It had lasted maybe ten minutes possibly a little longer, but it had happened.  Yes we had certainly showed them this time.

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