Music Soothes the Savage Beast



 

One year we had a particularly rambunctious 8th grade class.  There were four guys in particular who were as wild as the proverbial March hare.  They were especially prone to act up in the cafeteria.  Now this was middle school.  You can't keep them cooped up all day, but we had a principal who thought the cafeteria should be quiet.  The teachers were always getting beat up about the rowdiness in the cafeteria when in fact, it was mostly just middle schoolers letting off some steam.  I found it hard to get upset about it because I never had any problems with them and I didn't think the cafeteria was all that rowdy. But since two of them were in my homeroom, there was no avoiding the issue.

The school tried everything.  They had them eat first.  Eat last. Eat together.  Eat separately. Eat somewhere else. Phone calls home.  Detention. Nothing worked.  As the year went on though, they got crazier, so I started watching and sure enough, they were really pushing the envelope even by my standards.  When the school threatened to take away teacher lunch breaks to monitor the cafeteria, I swung into action.

A couple of days later, I watched the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse start to wind up.  I went out on the floor and told the four of them to come with me.  I said we're going to the head of the lunch line and then eat in my room.  They were ecstatic.  All riiiight - we're going to eat lunch first and go up to Mr. L's room.  Off we went.

When we got to the room, I had them line up four desks right in front of mine. Then I said "How about some music?"  Yeah, music. This is gonna be cool.  I put my CD of Gregorian chants in the Macintosh with the Altec-Lansing speakers and started it up.  You could see them stiffen and cringe.  It was better than fingernails down a chalk board. I was just getting started.

I said "You know, my hearing isn't so good, so is it OK if I turn this up?" and I did.   It was too loud to talk over and echoed out into the hallways.  The Vatican would have been proud. 

I was on a roll. I turned down the volume. "Don't you just love that old time religion?  Listen to these guys.  They're singing their hearts out. C'mon let's sing along, you know the words."  Of course, there are no words in Gregorian chants, at least none that you can understand. They looked at me like I was crazy, waving my arms like a conductor and doing my version of a Gregorian chant. A couple of them actually started to move their lips while sneaking glances side-to-side to see if anybody else was moving theirs.  I turned the music up again.

 

A few minutes later, I turned off the music and had them stand up in front of my desk.  Then I summoned my best hard ass Marine look and told them to go back downstairs and tell all their friends what happened.  "Anybody involved in any more animal acts at lunchtime will eat lunch with me.  And if you guys do it, you'll eat lunch up here every day for the rest of the year. I listen to this stuff all the time so it's no big deal to me. When I get tired of Gregorian chants, we'll start listening to this..." -  and I held up one of my favorites, a CD of Donizetti Arias sung by  Luciano Pavarotti.  They didn't know who or what that was and didn't want to find out.  I sent them back to the cafeteria.  The whole thing lasted about 20 minutes.  We had no more problems in the lunch room. 

 

More importantly, the teachers got to keep their lunch break.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

 

 

Si facile, omnes esset facere....Mister L.