Back to Education
Besides Mr. Pike, the limo business in December and January was pretty dead and I was now a married man with no income – living off my savings and Patti’s generosity. I was still on leave of absence for the rest of the school year so I decided to substitute teach. My second or third teaching assignment was at Cashman Junior High School and to my surprise my former elementary school kids from my first year in Las Vegas were now ninth grade students at Cashman. So although I was a sub, many of the kids knew me.
As I was leaving school the secretary asked if I could wait, that the principal wanted to speak to me. Richard Priest had come from Iowa where he had been a teacher and principal. He was a laid back Middle American with heartland values and an excellent administrator. He told me that he had observed my interaction with the kids and asked if I would consider a permanent sub position for the rest of the year.
He went on to say that there was a class of 12 boys who had been the bane of their teacher, causing him to take a medical leave, and that the 12 boys had already run off several other subs. The teachers referred to them as “The Dirty Dozen.” He said he had contacted the other two principals for whom I’d worked and both said I had excellent classroom management skills. He then asked again if I’d become a permanent sub.
I told Mr. Priest that I was flattered by his offer but I was unwilling to return to work fulltime as a sub. Subs earn a fraction of the salaries of contracted teachers and have no benefits. He said that if I would do this favor for him he would do whatever he could to get my contract reinstated early. He said the Dirty Dozen would be redistributed to other classes at the end of the semester – a few weeks away, and he just needed somebody to keep the lid on until then. I gave him until then to get my contract reinstated and agreed. Within a week my contract had been reinstated.
The Dirty Dozen proved to be no problem for me. Most were not stupid, and several were fairly bright. We got along well and I told them that if everybody kept up their grades, had minimal discipline referrals, and good attendance for the rest of the term that I’d reward them. They asked “With what?” and I took that moment to brainstorm with them. Their wish was to take a camping trip into the wilds of Nevada.
I took the idea to Mr. Priest and he loved it. He said he had a fund that would pay for the rental of a camper and the trip would be educational as the class was a science class. We used the rest of the time to design the camping trip – a class project to identify the flora and fauna of the regions. All the boys brought their signed parental permission slips within a day. We sent the itinerary home for the boys to give to their parents. I took Steve, my cousin and a PE teacher as a second chaperone.
Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. I pulled up in the camper for the 7:00 sendoff. All the boys were there a half hour early and several parents thanked me profusely. One mother called me aside and attempted to hand me a $100 bill saying that according to the itinerary we were going past the Chicken Ranch where she had worked for years. She said, “I want you to use this money to get my son laid.”
I looked around for Allan Funt and thought, “Am I on Candid Camera?” But she was sincere. I told her I could not do that and she tried once more, promising me it would be just between us. I graciously declined.
As we drove up the highway the boys began to go into the rest room at the rear of the camper one at a time. I could smell the Marijuana wafting through the vehicle but was not sure how I was going to deal with it. By lunch time we were in a ghost town and so we stopped for a picnic. It was warm outside and the boys left their coats inside the vehicle. Steve was getting things set up when I returned to the camper on the pretext of using the rest room. Once inside I went through all their coat pockets and confiscated their stashes of Marijuana.
After lunch as we drove along, I quietly put my hand out the window, dropping one baggie at a time onto the highway. Nobody missed the pot until we pulled onto a side road to camp for the night. I could hear hushed conversations:
“Where is the stuff? You were supposed to bring it. I DID! Well, where is it. Maybe it fell out. Let’s look.”
I asked innocently, “What’s the problem, fellas?”
They never figured it out. They balmed each other for a while then just chalked it up to one of life’s mysteries. The semester ended and the boys were redistributed.