This is Yearbook.
The class I am in charge of at Millikan High School.
They are a wild, spirited group and I love them dearly.
One day, excited by the fact that the school had finally turned off the internet filters and had left the viewing discretion up to the teachers, I offered the kids a chance to create a Photoshop flyer for my friend Steve Soto and his band Manic Hispanic, believing that I was giving my students a life experience that would be considered valuable.
Now, being that this is high school, it wasn’t as if everyone jumped up and down and raised their hands to participate but… they did however… begin googling the name Steve Soto and Manic Hispanic happy to finally be unfettered from their technological bonds.
“This is so bad ass, Ms. Wood,” one of my senior editors said. “We can go on Facebook. We can go on Google images. Now we can really get some great Yearbook work done.”
I had my doubts about this statement but they were so excited, so punch-drunk with their new found freedom, that I felt I was in no position to bring them down: that would be like waking up on Christmas morning and finding out that you had received zero presents and Santa had also shit in your stocking.
“Oh,” one of the kids said after looking Manic Hispanic up online, “They do some type of Mexican gangster thing right?”
Everyone looked at me waiting to see if it was okay for us to like a “Mexican gangster” thing in the classroom.
“Well, yeah..” I said. “But it’s like a parody. Can anyone tell me what a parody is?”
Ten hands jumped up.
If we were going to bend the rules a bit… I figured I better find a way to keep the California Content Standards firmly in place while we did it and cover my ass in case someone found our Yearbook curriculum to be lacking.
I listened as they all babbled on about parodies and then I told them what they were supposed to do.
“Steve told me he wants something like Blood In Blood Out for the flyer. Do you guys know what that is?”
But before I had a verbal answer to assure me that they knew exactly what Blood In Blood Out was, a Latino cult classic crime-drama film, I saw twenty little teenage hands hit the keyboards hard and type in the words: Blood In Blood Out and two seconds later, there was a deafening moment of complete and total silence before loud screeches began to echo across the tops of computer stations and fill the classroom.
“What?” I screamed from my desk. “What are you freaking out about?”
I stood up to look at the computer screens and found that each and everyone of them was inundated by photos, photos once highly banned at our school site, now prominently displayed, in full-color glory, on our classroom monitors.
“OH MY GOD!” I shouted as I rushed towards the computer stations.
It was horrific I tell you.
A teacher’s worst nightmare.
A total lack of control.
A total educational malfunction.
Who would have known that the words: Blood In and Blood Out would bring a flood of cancerous anal polyps up on each and every screen?
My students were screaming.
My students were gasping.
Some of them just sat there, so stunned by the visual assault on their senses, that they just stared, mouths agape, at what they were viewing and all I could think was Jesus Christ how the fuck am I going to explain this one?
I knew what I had to do.
I stood tall and put on my teacher voice and said firmly, “Stop what you are doing and take your hands away from the computers.”
Everyone pulled their hands back as we continued to stare… mesmerized by the anal polyps… unable to look away.
“That is so weird,” one of the editors finally said followed by, “Can we Instagram them to someone Ms. Wood?”
Oh my God… NO… I thought to myself but out loud, I knew that if I didn’t act cool about this, they were going to pull out their iphones and start clicking because… that is exactly what teenagers do… when they smell fear in their teacher.
So I pulled out my iphone, snapped a photo of the anal polyps and made a big deal about how funny it was going to be for all of us to send it to my friend Sharla Bafia who was a “real goody two-shoes” and would totally freak out.
They all loved being in on the joke so they sat giggling softly, as if she could hear us, as we waited for Sharla’s response, which of course was almost instantaneous and read: “WHAT THE FUCK DUDE?”
We all had a good chuckle as we shut the images of anal polyps down and tried to strike them permanently from our memory.
I kept my game face on but inside… I was beyond relieved that I got out of that situation without it turning into a total clusterfuck.
“Okay,” I said calmly. “Let’s try this again. But this time, please type in the words: Movie Blood In and Blood Out.”
Everyone did as I asked, with only a sly devious smile or giggle here or there, which I shut down immediately with my most vicious teacher stare.
How’s it going? Steve texted right then.
I didn’t want him concerned about the anal polyp incident, he needed this flyer posted within the next hour, so I just replied: Great!… and went back to watching the students.
And for about twenty minutes, everything was totally calm as they pulled film images off the internet, and all vied to created the best band flyer for my friend until someone shouted out, “What should we use for a background?”
I was typing away on my own computer, not really paying attention to what they were up to once things calmed down, and so I shouted out absentmindedly, “I don’t know… black and gold sounds good right?”
And I heard once again twenty little hands go to type words… this time… black and gold… into the computer… and once again there was a moment of complete silence followed by a series of sharp screams, which this time, was punctuated by a few solidly loud, OH MY GODS!
I jumped, startled, and saw on each screen a large black man, walking two naked white women who were chained and completely covered in gold dust.
“OH JESUS FUCK!” I screeched without thinking.
Each head turned.
Each mouth dropped.
Suddenly, the focus was directly on me.
“You said fuck,” one of the editors whispered.. shocked by the unfiltered internet but stunned by Ms. Wood loosing her cool.
“You said Jesus and fuck in the same sentence,” someone else said in a mocking tone.
“God damn it,” I shouted. “Everyone shut down Google image RIGHT NOW!”
They didn’t move.
“I said RIGHT NOW!” I screamed as I pointed my finger at them and stomped my little feet.
Not one student disobeyed.
Everyone shut off Google image and sat quietly.
Really… what was there to say after what we had all witnessed in the last thirty minutes of class?
I wasn’t even sure how to proceed with the entire situation.
I was firmly in the camp of open internet filters in our high school community but obviously… I hadn’t thought it entirely through.
“Liz,” I said to one of my senior editors. “Make the flyer for Steve. Everyone else. Go on Facebook and just relax for a few minutes.”
Facebook: the crack cocaine of the high school world.
Suddenly, caught up in their social networking addiction, the incidents of the class faded into the background.
I went back to my desk knowing that Liz, responsible and capable, would knock that flyer out in minutes and if once again assaulted with anal polyps or black men with naked gold women, would just shut it out of her mind and continue to get her work done: There was a reason she was the number one editor and had a A+ in Yearbook.
She was an educational bad ass.
Once again I settled down… I prayed to St. Jude, Patron Saint of Lost Causes, and hoped that I wouldn’t have twenty parent phone calls by the end of the day.
And that was when my computer was taken over remotely… by our staff computer administrator: Mr. Rios… who had obviously been trolling for “inappropriate content” the first day of our unfiltered technology school existence.
Having fun with those unfiltered computers in there Ms. Wood? The message read.
I leaned my elbows on my desk and covered my face with my hands.
I had no response.
The jig was up.
He had witnessed everything from his secret post.
I wanted to type back: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Or just the numbers: 1984.
But instead, I just sat there… eyes covered… mentally taxed… and listened to the happy click of my students fingers in the background as they blissfully went on with their Facebook instant messaging… until I heard another beep to let me know he had messaged me again:
Okay, it said. Being that I’m Latino I get the whole Blood In Blood Out mishap and obviously… they are enjoying the whole Facebook freedom right now but… how did you guys end up with the black man and the naked chained women covered in gold dust?
And right then my phone went off.
It was Steve of course asking about the flyer: Is it done yet? he asked innocently but already worked up from the entire event, caused by my need to please my friend, make my kids feel like big shots by having them create a hip band flyer, and show how totally cool Ms. Wood was in her “alter band world” I so wanted to respond from my flawed shadow self and text in all caps: SHUT THE FUCK UP STEVE SOTO! YOU’LL GET YOUR GOD DAMN FLYER WHEN YOU GET IT!”
But instead… I wrote… Almost done… and covered my eyes again with my hands… hoping that it would all just go away.
There was another “beep” signaling once again a new message from my computer administrator.
Well Ms. Wood? It said.
I had to concede.
And I hated to concede but in this case…. I had to admit that I might be wrong.
I’m rethinking my whole opposition to the internet filters, I typed.
You bet your @ss you are! He wrote back and then unlocked my screen and let me get back to work.
“Done,” Liz said from her station and I walked over to find that she had made a fantastic flyer for my friend.
“That looks great,” I said.
“You sure you wouldn’t like me to add an anal polyp or a black man with chained naked women covered in gold dust?” she asked.
I gave her the evil eye.
“Obviously not,” she said sarcastically. “So who am I sending this to?”
Five minutes later, Steve had his flyer and was posting it on Facebook, the bell rang and the kids left, and it seemed that maybe they were not permanently scarred after all… And I sat down for a moment to calm my mind and let go of the atrocities of the last hour, praying to God that I would never see an anal polyp, a black man with naked chained white women covered in gold dust, or a message from my computer administrator, in my classroom, ever, EVER again.