Thursday, May 14, 2009

Parrot Head

Last Halloween I dressed up as a parrot. I purchased the costume for $59.99 which included the "fake" parrot feet and a full bodied parrot head complete with beak. I spent the day roaming into classrooms with Mr. C - he was the pirate, I was the parrot. I would then start dancing and Mr. C would give out candy to any student in costume.

It was exhausting. For a one time costume, all in all a poor investment.

I left the costume at work, tossing into a crate of hats and toys I keep under my desk. The crate has pirate hats, a jester's cap, a Darth Vader helmet (complete with Vader voice activation), a miniature M1 Abrams battle tank, a George Bush doll (missing a foot - long story), a child size megaphone, a fake rubber bat, and mixed assortment of Star Wars Pez dispensers.

Most of these are gifts - honest.

A few months ago a student entered the room and told me it was their birthday. On a whim I whipped out the parrot hat and started singing Happy Birthday, pecking them on the head.

It's become something of a thing.

Today it was Susan, a petite goth girl who loves the Twilight novels and wears one color - black. Susan skips into the room and kicks upward with one foot, she's wearing a pretty black dress.

This is unusual. "What's going on?" I ask.

"It's my birthday! Aren't you going to sing me happy birthday? Check the roll! Honest!"

"You bet I am Susan!" I whip out the parrot head, put it on and start singing, pecking Susan's forehead between each verse. Naturally I sing off key.

Susan blushes and ducks. She's not used to this kind of attention. She's both flattered and embarrassed, but she doesn't move until I finish the song.

The class cheers.

Besides singing birthday songs I've found another use for the parrot head.

It's great for shaming kids.

Typically when a student upsets me, I whip out the parrot head and start following them around the school. It's amazing how effective a tool this is, I've yet to see a student stand up to it without caving in.

For some reason they think it's really embarrassing when I start squawking like crazy.

Today I'm in Bustamante's room, the students are watching Super Size Me when Bustamante has to exit the room. Even though I'm still there, a few of them see this as the perfect time to start talking.

I ask them to be quiet. I give them one warning, and then "it's on."

One of Bustamante's more troubling students is Alfonso. Alfonso is a heavy set immature 9th grader who thinks "everything is gay" and blurts out stupid answers to get a laugh from his friends. Today he's talking during the film. "Alfonso, you need to move."

"But I'm not doing anything!"

I'm in no mood to argue. "Last chance. Move."

Alfonso stays put. I shake my head. This is not the first time I've warned him. A month earlier I threatened him with the parrot head and told him I would follow him during lunch.

Like a wuss I showed mercy and let him do 15 minutes with me during the lunch period in my room. Then I let him go. "Don't do this again, or you know what will happen."

But like most kids, after a few weeks his bad behaviors reassurted themselves. I go back to my room and collect the parrot head, then I ask him to move again.

Alfronso remains put.

I sit inbetween him and his friend, invading his comfort zone as I direct my gaze at my face. For the next 45 minutes, I don't move, remaining focused on him like a laser. Alfonso hates it. He avoids my gaze, turning his face towards the desk or the movie. He then shifts through his backpack, pulls out a notebook and practices a tag. Shifting, he pays attention to the film, and answers a few questions on his worksheet, then tries to talk to his friend.

I don't move.

Alfonso puts his head down. I get up to stretch, cracking my back, watching Alfonso as he breathes a sigh of relief.

I sit back down next to him. "Awwww, man..."

At the end of class I tell him to stay. He wants to run away, but I explain that if he runs away it will be worse. "You know I'll find you." I state calmly. "Time for you to man up, or you can act like a child and run away. What's it going to be?"

This shames him into staying.

At the end of class I ask him why he didn't move. Alfonso protests, starts complaining that he didn't do anything. "Why are you dogging me? I didn't do anything, other people were talking."

I shrug. "I don't know. Guess life's unfair." I lean in. "Honestly, I really don't feel like following you during lunch. So you can either give me your I-pod or some other collateral and I'll give it back to you at the end of the day, come up with your own punishment, or I follow you around during lunch? What's it going to be?"


I purse my lips and make a half wheezing, half dying gasp whine. "Detention. Bah! I don't believe in detention! Something else! Should I sit next to you another whole period?"

Alfonso says nothing, stares into space. "I don't know, you decide."

"Parrot head it is!" I declare. "Let's go."

Alfonso walks quickly down the stairway, not quite running away, but trying to keep at least six paces ahead of me. I put on the head and follow him, openly asking him where we're going, making sure to call out his name.

We make it outside and some of the other students from the class spot us. They point and laugh. "Leiken's got you!" they cry out. "Leiken's got you!"

Alfonso looks at no one, he stares straight ahead, ignoring everyone around us. We pass a group of tougher students leaning against the wall. They call out as I walk by. "What's with the parrot head?" they ask.

I squawk.

Alfonso picks up speed. He scurries into the A building and enters a room full of students sitting quietly.

One of the aides, Erin, is at the front. "As soon as I saw that parrot, I knew it had to be you Leiken."

Alfonso remains silent.

"Is this detention?" I ask.

"Yeah, they can elect to do it during lunch. Does this count for him?"

I glance down at Alfonso. "Nah. He came here to hide. This counts for nothing." I pull off the parrot head. "His name's Alfonso. If he leaves, let me know."

As I walk back across the quad I grin evilly.

$59.99 for a parrot costume wasn't overpriced at all.

It was a bargain.

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