Most Embarrassing Moments: I Will Not Stand For This

(This moment is not particularly embarrassing. But looking back, I made it out to be a much bigger deal than it probably was.)

My parents said I was mature beyond my years in elementary school. This was confirmed when I tried to stage a rebellion in fourth grade.

cafeteria.jpgIn our school cafeteria, my fellow pupils were rather rowdy. On most days, our “lunch monitor” would have to get on the cafeteria’s public address system to quiet us down. She would first start with a polite, hushed request. “Shhhhhhhhh,” she would echo into the microphone.

This would never work.

About thirty seconds later, this would be followed by a more aggressive request. “Quiet down,” she would state, sternly.

This, too, would never work.

Just seconds later, the cafeteria would go completely dark. She had turned the lights off. I and my fellow students would panic as we waited for her deafening shout into the microphone:


This would usually work. The entire cafeteria would be in complete darkness and silence, and a mass of young children would have their heads in the arms on the cafeteria tables. Peace at last for the lunch monitor, who, for some inexplicable reason, thought that 100 school-aged children would not be loud when seated with each other over a meal.

This particular day, two of my classmates would not stop talking. They continued talking. And because our entire classroom sat at one lunch table, we were singled out.

“Room 10,” the monitor yelled at our table, “BE QUIET!”

We were quiet… except for those two kids, who were naturally the class clowns. Even after our entire class shushed them, they still whispered and giggled to each other.

Were there consequences? Oh, were there consequences! The lunch monitor told us that because of these two students, we would have to stand in line at recess the next day. Yes, because of two students, all twenty-five of us would be punished. Yes, despite our own fruitless efforts to silence our classmates using the same means as our cranky sixty-year-old lunch monitor, we would all be punished. I was pissed.

I stomped back up the stairs after lunch. I seemed to be taking this harder than anyone else. I would not be punished for someone else’s actions. I would not be guilty by association. Still twenty-two hours shy of serving my sentence, I was already plotting my appeal.

elemschool.jpgRecess came the next day, and as a class, we were paraded out into the schoolyard. Our class would stand in a line and face the school’s brick wall while all of our fellow students enjoyed a brisk and sunny spring day.

But I would not stand in that line.

I stepped aside. I stood out of line. Perhaps I was out of line. The lunch monitor certainly thought so.

“STAND IN LINE,” she barked.

“No,” I replied, sternly. To this day, this has been just about the only moment in my life that I have talked back to an authority figure. “I don’t believe in group punishment. I was quiet yesterday. It’s not fair.”

“Too bad,” she snapped back. “Stand in line or go to the principal’s office.”

I considered her options for a few seconds. And, for the first and last time in my entire grade school career, I went to the principal’s office. I was not even escorted. I stormed out of the schoolyard myself and walked directly into her office. She was sitting at her desk.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m here because I’m being punished for doing nothing wrong.”

I was convinced I was in the right. The principal said, more or less, that group punishment was, indeed, unfair. With her inaction, she convinced me that I was in the right. I was never punished for standing up for what I thought was wrong. I would have thought of it as my own Last Stand, but I would not learn about Custer’s Last Stand for another five years.

I sat in the principal’s office until recess was over. When I got back in the classroom, my students looked at me in awe. Just this one time, I was a badass. I was the guy who stood up and fought against the man. Or the woman, in this case.

Never again in my elementary school career was our class, or any other, punished as a group. That could just be a coincidence, but I’d like to think I had something to do with it. And maybe, just maybe, group punishment is still discouraged at my elementary school because of the brave actions of one principled fourth grader in the spring of 1991.



Filed under Life Before Blogging

14 responses to “Most Embarrassing Moments: I Will Not Stand For This

  1. That might make a damn good Disney movie.

  2. Damn the man! Save the empire!

  3. Paul

    Hey, I was a fourth grader in the Spring of ’91! In sixth grade, though, I was part of a class detention for something I didn’t do. I didn’t stand up for myself, but the teacher allowed students to leave one by one. I was the first to leave after about a minute into detention.

  4. Amy in StL

    I can’t believe I’m delurking to tell you this…. In first grade I rolled down my knee socks because all the cool upper classmen were doing it. The principal told me to roll my socks up. I asked why and she said because it was a rule that socks couldn’t be worn rolled down. I said,”Okay, but it’s a stupid rule.” So of course the nun reported me to my parents and I got in trouble at home for sassing a nun.

  5. fbl

    O.K., first of all, what a totally random post. (which is always fine)
    Second of all, I was just watching “School Ties” with Brendan Frasier (needs to be mentioned because it may be the only reason I love this movie) and remember how the whole class was going to fail history because Matt Damon cheated? Seems totally unfair but hopefully it would squeeze the cheater enough to confess, having any smidgen (sp?) of a conscience. Unfortunately, Matt was an asshole and blamed Brendan because he was a dirty jew(his words, not mine) but in the end, it all worked out.
    Yes, I am aware this was a movie and not real life.
    And yes, your story was a bit different.
    And most important-I plan on getting a life soon and not sitting home watching movies all day. (not that it’s any of your business)
    Thanks for listening and good for you for questioning authority.

  6. Very heroic. I missed the embarrassing part though.

  7. veejay

    spring of 1991? My god, you’re young.

  8. brit

    when i was in kindergarden, i wasn’t paying attention to the teacher, and she told me to “put my eyes on the board.” so, in front of the whole class, i got up from my desk and literally put my face on the blackboard, so to demonstrate “putting my eyes on the board.” she didn’t like that much, so i had to sit in the corner all day, which i didn’t mind, because it gave me a chance to organize my crayons.
    i’m very unrebellious, so i still find it insane that i acted out like that!
    so proud of you!

  9. Didn’t you go to Drum Rock? Cedar Hill was where it was at.

  10. Ellen

    My elementary school was just like that and I remember being SO OUTRAGED. But really, has this group-punishment method ever worked in any school?

  11. fbl: Thanks. Now I never have to see “School Ties.”

    veejay: I’m young? Bless you.

    Dave: I went to neither. This was in another school district.

  12. I wish “PUT YOUR HEADS DOWN!” was used on adults too.

  13. Mike Smith

    I was playing with my baseball cards with another friend in Grade 6. Mr. Abbott made my friend and I both stand in the corner facing the wall for an hour. We got teased all day for this.

  14. OH crud! i just typed a nice comment and as soon as i submitted it it come up blank! Please tell me it worked properly? I do not want to sumit it again if i do not have to! Either the blog bugged out or i am just stuipd :), the latter doesnt surprise me lol.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s