Public School Teachers

INT. Classroom. Three students, THOMAS, JEFF, and JANINE, sit at their desks while MR. ZUBER, an older, beaten-down teacher, sits at the front of the classroom. A younger teacher, KYLE, stands near the head of the classroom. ‘The War of 1812’ is written on the blackboard. A voice is heard over the PA system.)

VO

Good morning students and teachers and welcome to another wonderful day here at PS 321. Just a friendly reminder that, contrary to the notes that we’ve been sending home to your parents, asbestos continues to be a problem in our air ducts, so please refrain from any unnecessary breathing while walking in the hallways. And a special announcement: today is Janitor Larry’s birthday, so maybe we all lay off for just one day, huh? Thanks, and enjoy your day!

MR. ZUBER

Alright everyone, settle down and take your seats. Everyone take your seats. Now before we get to today’s lesson on the War of 1812, a war that I continue to maintain never happened, we need to take care of a bit of business. Due to Mayor Bloomberg’s war on long-term public school teachers in this city, and also due to my recent disciplinary infraction for stealing basketballs from the school gym, the school has decided that for the remainder of the semester this class will be team-taught by myself and a young man from something called Teach For America, which, as far as I can tell, is a program for Ivy League graduates who couldn’t get into the Peace Corps. So everyone, please say hello to Mr. McCarthy.

KYLE

What’s up everybody? My name is Kyle, and I can already tell that this is going to be a bitchin’ class! Yup, I say things like bitchin’. And also Twitter.

MR. ZUBER

OK. So now that that’s out of the way, can someone tell me where we left off on Friday?

THOMAS

We were supposed to be discussing the expansion of the United States into the Northwest Territory in the 1800’s, but somehow that turned into an angry rant about the city closing down the OTB by your apartment.

MR. ZUBER

Well, Thomas, I’m a fifty-seven year old middle school teacher with two sets of car payments, one case of gout, and I live in a converted two-bedroom apartment next to a sweatshop on 39th Street with a roommate named Knife. The OTB and the Staten Island Old Country Buffet are pretty much the only places I can go to not be the most defeated person in the room.

(MR. ZUBER takes out a cigarette and lights it)

JANINE

I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to smoke in the classroom.

MR. ZUBER

Well, you’re also not supposed to be able to get a job as a public school teacher if you have multiple felony convictions for forging checks, but here we are.

KYLE

You know what, gang? I think we should move away from history and hit some English literature. Why don’t you guys take out your books? You know, books are like Kindles but with covers and pages. I totally get you guys.

JANINE

We’re reading The Great Gatsby right now.

JEFF

Mr. Zuber, I have a question about what the green light at the end of the novel is supposed to symbolize.

MR. ZUBER

Well, Jeff, like all great literature, The Great Gatsby has one message and one message alone. That there is no God. That the sugar-coated hopes of youth will rapidly and inevitably give way to life’s crushing defeats. That one day you’ll find your fifty-seven year old self sitting on a the broken-half of a second-hand love seat next to your roommate Knife, wearing an old bathing suit because you just don’t have it in you to wash your pants, watching ‘Hoarders’ jealously because ‘Hey, at least they’ve got stuff,” listening to ‘The Monster Mash’ on repeat because that’s the only song that still works on your Zune…sorry, I got lost in a thought there. What were we talking about?

KYLE

Why don’t you let me take a stab at this one Mr. Z? I bet you guys are sitting there thinking, “What does The Great Gatsby have to do with me? Just a bunch of boring old white guys sitting around talking about eggs? Come on teach — I’m a hip-hop kid!” Well, maybe that’s because no one has ever talked to you about The Great Gatsby in your own language. So I thought I’d break it down to you in a way that’s more your style. Can somebody give me a beat?

(No response from the students)

So here’s a little story I’ve got to tell /

About a couple rich people you don’t know too well /

There’s my man Jay Gatz and his homeboy Tom /

And they’re sitting in the Hampton’s thinking This life is the bomb /

Sittin’ pretty like P. Diddy with the money, hoes, and cash /

But there’s something shady hiding up in Mr. Gatsby’s past /

And maybe this life it really ain’t so fly /

If you see it from the billboard using those bespeckled eyes /

When I say Eckle, you say Berg /

Eckle! Eckle!

(No response from the students)

That didn’t do it for you? That’s cool. Why don’t I teach you guys about sentence structure by deconstructing some of Drake’s tweets? I’m so down with Drake.

THOMAS

Can you just teach us normally? Mr. Zuber, if we don’t pass the Regent’s exam next week we don’t graduate.

MR. ZUBER

Thomas, it isn’t my job to make sure that you can pass tests and graduate.

JEFF

I was really hoping that we could go over integers today.

MR. ZUBER

Didn’t we do that last week?

JEFF

Yes, but your explanation didn’t make any sense.

MR. ZUBER

That’s because I don’t know what integers are! How many times do I need to make that point before it sticks with you kids?

JEFF

It’s just that integers are a big part of the math section of the exam.

MR. ZUBER

Well, Jeff, my feet are covered in AM New York because I wore out my shoes Fred-Flinstoning to work after the floor fell out of my car. So we’ve all got problems, okay?

KYLE

Let me take a stab at this one MZ. If there’s one thing I learned in Teach For America boot camp, it’s that girls from Brown University don’t put out. But if there’s one other thing I learned, it’s that public school kids are literally chomping at the bit to express themselves through slam poetry.

JANINE

That’s not even true a little bit.

JANINE

Maybe we just read silently until school lets out?

MR. ZUBER

That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day. Actually, why don’t we all just get out of here? The Film Forum is having a free screening of ‘Life is Beautiful’ at two o’clock, and I’d really like to be there to ruin it for everybody.

JEFF

Why don’t we just go back to my house and we can study there?

KYLE

Look guys, I get it. I know what you’re going through. I grew up on the wrong side of the Metro-North tracks in Scarsdale, and I’ve raked my hare of autumn leaves, trust me. So I can see the potential in you even if no one else does, and I know how this works. First you might all be cold to me and give me a nickname like White Bread. But once I show up to school in a leather jacket and teach you karate as a metaphor for learning, things will start to change. The school board will hate my teaching methods, and one of you will get killed by a recently paroled gang member, but in the end we’ll all have learned a lesson that can’t be taught from any book, and Coolio will turn the whole thing into a hit song.

JANINE

That’s the plot from the movie ‘Dangerous Minds’.

KYLE

I’ll be honest with you — watching ‘Dangerous Minds’ is about ninety percent of Teach For America training.

(JANITOR LARRY pokes his head in the door)

JANITOR LARRY

Just want to let you guys know that the urine spill in the bathroom is cleaned up, so we’re back in business.

MR. ZUBER

Yeah — sorry about that.

JANITOR LARRY

(Seeing the blackboard, and speaking with a thick Boston accent)

Wah of 1812, huh? Interesting thing about that wah — both the South and Gulf Coasts saw major land battles in which the American and British fahces traded occupation of the other’s territahry. Howevah, these occupations would end up being lahgely temporary, as the majahrity of pre-war land ownahship was restahed by the Treaty of Ghent at wah’s end.

MR. ZUBER

Thanks for the help, Larry, but I think we can handle it.

KYLE

We’ve got it under control Larry. I have Friend-Requests pending with all of these kids, so I’m pretty sure I know how to teach them, okay?

JANITOR LARRY

Alright you fahkin’ fahk. But if any of you kids need any help with yah physics homewahk, I’ll be out solving equations on the wall.

(JANITOR LARRY exits)

KYLE

So back to Drake, right gang?

Lights