The Perils of Louella:

Chapter 194: Louella Teaches Math

by A.C. Cherbonnier
       THE BELL signalling the end of homeroom rang while students were still straggling in late. Louella gave up trying to keep track in the roll book. I’ll fill it in later once I know their real names, she thought, hoping no one checked.
       She looked at her watch because the clock in the back of the room was broken. Only 20 minutes have gone by and I’m already exhausted! How am I going to feel by three-thirty? Dead? She made a note to get the clock fixed as she became aware of yelling in the hall.
       Masses of kids were pushing to get through, stepping around two boys who were wrestling on the floor. One had a strong grip on the other’s throat. Both were bigger than Louella. She looked up and down the hall, hoping to see a strong male adult who could come to the rescue, but she was the only teacher in sight.
       Oh no! Not a murder on my first day! “You two! Stop fighting right now!” she demanded as authoritatively as she could. They ignored her. Other kids passed by without giving her eye contact. “I mean it! Or you’ll both have to go to the principal’s office!”
       “Ooooh, I’m scared, momma!” mimicked the one doing the throat throttle. The other one made a rude hand gesture.
       Should I touch them to separate them? Louella wondered desperately. If I touch them could they sue me for assault or something?
       A few kids were straggling into her classroom for Practical Math. One boy was over six feet tall. “Excuse me,” Louella said to him. “Can you help me here? I can’t get these guys to stop fighting.”
       “Me? No way! One of them might have a knife or somethin’. You be the boss lady, it be your problem. I’m sorry and all that, but if I get into that they’ll be after me next! Same for you!”
       Louella noticed the two fighters were growing tired of what apparently was a dominance game. If everybody else is ignoring this, maybe I should too, she thought. I mean, if one of them gets killed while I’m watching I’m in more trouble than if I stay away, right?
       Retreating to her desk, she made another note to herself to see if the intercom could be made two-way. Right now, the office could talk to her but she couldn’t call for help.
       The bell rang. Louella looked up at her first-ever class. That’s it? Only fifteen kids? I’m supposed to have thirty-three in here! She checked the roll book left by the previous teacher. Sure enough, 33 names. She noticed attendance was erratic. She stared some more, seeing a pattern. It looks like only half the class is here on any given day, with different kids showing up each time! How am I supposed to teach a class like that?“Yo! Miss! What’s your name?”
       Louella looked up, and was surprised to be facing a group of alert curious faces. They told me never to smile in the first weeks, she reminded herself as she felt tempted to be friendly.
       “I’m Miss Preston,” she said coolly. “Turn to page forty-five and let’s do the problems.”
       “Aww, come on, you don’t expect us to know anything, do you?” said a plump boy with owlish glasses. His tone was almost pleading. “Can’t we start at the beginning of the book and learn something for a change?”


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This story was published on March 1, 2000.