Since I am on Spring Break and have no current tales to tell, I searched my mental archives and recalled this from my first year — first semester — of teaching (and the only year I worked in Adult Ed):
I was a job coach for the State of Idaho, and several ex-cons attended my class as a condition of their parole. One of them was a woman named Nita, and the first class started late because we were waiting for her to arrive. Finally, the door swung open and she stepped into the room, almost six feet tall and tattooed, she rolled in on an attitude even bigger than she was. The students already there fell silent — even the other ex-cons.
I took in her black logging boots, black jeans, chain-link belt (made from a real chain), Harley Davidson t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, bleeding dagger tattoo, short, spiked, bleached-blond flat top and trembled in my patient leather high heeled pumps. The look on her face promised trouble. She stalked over to me and stopped. I looked up, forcing myself not to back away. “I ain’t taking your effin’ class and you can’t make me,” she snarled.
My stomach crawled into my throat. Even so, I managed to shrug and even smiled. “I can’t force you to stay,” I said, then pointed toward the door. “It isn’t locked. Feel free to leave.”
She looked surprised. “Really?” She smiled. “I am so gone!” And, laughing, she turned toward the door.
I crossed the room to my desk. As her hand touched the door knob I picked up the telephone receiver. Despite the certain conviction that I was inviting my own death, I managed to casually inquire, “You’re Nita, right? And your parole officer’s name is Mick?”
She stopped. Silence, except for the tick, tick, ticking of the clock. I don’t think anybody even breathed.
Her hand dropped from the door knob and she turned around. “Effin’ A,” she said, then grabbed a chair and straddled it. “You just go ahead with your little show then, Teach. Knock yourself out.”
So I did. If you’ve been around here long you know that my teaching style looks a lot like a stand up comedy routine. Adults seem to enjoy it as much as the kids do. Nita was no exception. By the end of the class she had switched from heckler to body guard. It was a great semester.