“I just threw up a little bit,” Solomon said from the backseat.
It was 7:23am on a Thursday. We were about to back out of the driveway. Take the boys to school.
Did you know I wake up at 5am every morning? I try to get a run and a shower in before we have to get the boys to school. Then I come home, plug into my computer, and go to work. Talk about the Matrix.
“You did what?” Katie asked our son.
“I threw up,” Solomon said again. “But I still want to go to school.”
“Does your stomach hurt?” I asked.
“No! Sometimes I throw up a little bit.”
Katie looked horrified. I shrugged. I empathized with the boy. Sometimes you throw up a little bit. Sometimes foods comes up. I said as much to my wife. She looked at me like I have seven heads. And horns.
“Sometimes food comes up?” Katie asked me.
“You’ve never had that happen to you?”
Katie unbuckled her seatbelt. Got out and opened Solomon’s door. Sure enough, there was a little bit of what I would describe as mucus and pus on our son’s jacket. Katie took off his coat and got him another one.
“You sure you feel good enough to go to school?” I asked again.
“I feel fine, Dad!” Solomon said with determination. “I’m not staying home.”
So we drove to school. Dropped the boys at the door. Solomon seemed fine. A thought occurred to me as we drove away.
“He probably should have brushed his teeth after he threw up a little bit,” I said to Katie.
She agreed. Thankfully, his mask would shield his classmates from any bad breath. Thank you, Covid-19, for that.
If I had thrown up before school? I’d have begged my dad to let me stay home. In fact, sometimes I tried to throw up before school. And then I wouldn’t flush. Save the vomit for evidence.
“See, Dad, I’m super sick.”
It wasn’t hard to convince Dad to let me stay home. I missed a good chunk of the 7th grade this way. Especially during the swimming unit in gym class. I was pudgy in middle school. So I was “sick” the entire week that we were scheduled to be in the pool. But a simple miscalculation ruined my plan. I returned to school on Monday, after I thought the unit was over. But swimming was two weeks, not one. And I didn’t bring a swimsuit with me. So my gym teacher, a demon from the seventh-layer of hell, generously loaned me one of the school’s speedos. Skin tight. I put it on, and walked out of the locker-room by myself. In front of the entire class. It was traumatizing.
Maybe I’m not all that different than Solomon. I didn’t skip school very much during first-grade. My parents got divorced when I was in 4th grade. Dad got custody and we moved. Away from my friends and Horace Mann Elementary and Highland Park and home. Changed school districts a few times after that. I was all sorts of messed during that time. And school became a real burden. I’d rather play Super Nintendo. And get pudgy. Dad seemed cool with my playing Super Nintendo instead of going to school, so I learned a few tricks.
“Dad, I have a headache.”
“Dad, my stomach hurts.”
“Dad, I think I have Leukemia.”
Dad would shrug. I’d fire up the Super Nintendo, and enjoy some time to myself. No speedos. No mean kids. No nasty teachers with boring and colonizing pedagogy. Just an introvert playing The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario World or whatever.
This trend continued into high school. Skipped lots of school. Sometimes with Dad’s permission. Sometimes behind his back. I graduated by the skin of my teeth.
It’s surprising that I became a teacher. And then a professor of education. It’s funny that I came to care so much about school. About the potential for what school can be. Look, I still think lots of what happens in school is an excuse for people to hurt each other. But I’ve experienced versions of school, both as a teacher and a student, where groups of strangers come together and connect. People who think hard about who they are and the worlds they live in.
One of my students said something during a discussion last week. Virtual discussion. She said that good literacy pedagogy is when teachers and students come together to create new and unique discourses in community with each other. I snapped my fingers aggressively, because that’s how I show affection for students when they say cool things during Zoom meetings. The saddest part about this action? I still don’t know how to snap. So I just mime it.
I probably would have missed less school if I had more teachers like Ms. Hentges. My 11th grade English teacher built new and unique discourses with me during our short time together. New and unique discourses in her American Literature classroom, too. Because she was caring, present, and smart. Not many of my teachers taught the way she taught. She didn’t spend much time coercing people to act like she thought they should act. Instead, she got to know her students, brought us writing projects or books to read, and then thought about them with us.
Man, I liked her.
We expected a call from school after dropping Solomon off.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Tanner, but Solomon projectile vomited all over his teacher.”
But the call never came. Solomon was fine. We picked him up after-school. His breath wasn’t too bad. Not any worse than it usually is.
“Did you feel okay today, Solomon?”
“I said I was fine, Dad!”
Solomon can be very aggressive. I suppose we all can.
Is there a moral to this week’s blog? Why not? The moral, so far as I can tell, is this. Sometimes we all throw up a little bit. Take those words of wisdom with you as you leave this short blog this week.