Rob Neukirch

Rob Neukirch
Rob lives in Floyd, VA with his wife Michele and their two sons, Preston and Cooper.


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MARCH 27, 2012 12:37PM


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After three years of subbing exclusively at the elementary school I got a call from the 11th grade English teacher.  He asked if I could do a four-day stint at the high school this week.  I gulped and said, "Sure."

Big kids are different after all.  They're my size and larger, and they have deep voices and big feet.  Well, the boys do.  The girls wear make-up and, some of them, too little clothing.   A lot of the big kids don't make eye contact.  Or any other kind of contact.

I'm just another needless adult in their world.

I am however, fortunately or otherwise, a necessary adult.  The students do come into the room - in this case the library - and expect to see someone.  Because I have two sons in school - Preston is a sophomore, Cooper in 6th - that gives me a slight amount of "cred."  Of course, in our area of the country, I'd have more cred if I wore a sweat-stained ball cap and camouflage. 

Instead I wear a uniform of khaki's and polo shirt.  I even wear a belt. (My late mother - "You're not dressed if you don't have a belt on.")  White socks and tennis shoes.  From habit I keep a couple of coins in my pocket but these kids don't believe in magic and so "disappearing" a quarter won't get me much but some serious "eye rolling." Who could blame them?  Maybe Ricky Jay would stop by if I asked him?

I'm 45 years removed from HS so I have to look hard for kids in the room that I recognize.  The smart ones are the same, the boys and girls that come in, maybe sit by themselves and just get to work.  Sometimes these kids sit with their friends and help out.  Their classmates run things by them with questions like "Can I say..." or "Do I need quotes if I..."

The touchy "couples" are in the hallways but not in class.  And just like back in the day yes, some of them need to "get a room."  There are definite friendships of boy-boy, girl-girl, girl-boy.  There are playful hits, tugs, kicks, stealing of shoes, etc. and I suppose that's all the same.  Of course, back when we circled the wagons and shot our lunch there was no file-sharing, no looking up on Google, no ear-buds spanning two different ears on two different heads.  We didn't dare bring in our transistors - unless it was the World Series.  Beside, I didn't own a transistor.  I did have a pocket comb but the reception was horrible.

With the little kids you worry about things like chairs, stairs and whether or not they're going to choke on a lunch item.  Here in the HS you worry that the wall that the large, farm boy accidently walks into will still be standing after the collison.  Is the girl with the strange-colored, over-sized sunglasses on wearing them to hide something or just wearing them to wear them?  Ah well, drop back and punt, hope for the best, let a smile be your're subbing and the mission is to get to 3:20 with a minimum of bodily and/or psychological injury, both to yourself and the students.

I do appreciate the hot water.  In the elementary school it's a safety issue and rather than cook anyone small why not live like my grandfather did at the turn of the century, there on the upper east side of Manhattan?  "It was a cold water flat and the bathroom was down the hall.  When I say cold water I mean in February it came out in little cubes.  You washed up and got a good cry in all at the same time."

Day two of my four days.  I'm covering a "Study Skills" group at the moment - just seven students - and they're all quiet and focussed on the task at hand - whatever that is.  Homework, it looks like.  One trip to the nurse and one to the bathroom.  So far.

So good.

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I think I know this guy - at least I know a smart-ass kind of guy that actually talks like this. He's pretty funny. So is this guy.
"Belts" were part of the mandatory dress code back in HS... I flaunted that by deliberately wearing my Banlon polo shirt with the tail out... the assistant principal had a hard on for me and my shirt tail... "licks" (this was Texas), detention and I had to wear a string through the belt loops of my jeans... badge of honor.