today. i was doing lunch duty in the school cafeteria. and i saw the kids try to wait for their friends after they'd gotten their food. students will go to their seats immediately after receiving their food trays. students must sit in the first available seat, by rows. students must eat quietly, and if they wish to rise from their seats, they must first raise their hands and get teacher permission. instructions for packaging sardines. or for towing away prisoners. assigned seating in class. and assigned seating at lunch. and if they break the rules, they can't go outside for the five minutes that they are allowed... whose sole purpose is not to give the kids a chance to run and chase one another and let their hair fly in the wind and let out some of their inexhaustible teen energy... but just to get them in line so they can file back into the building silently. like prisoners. students will stand in line without speaking. and if they speak they don't get to return to their group cell. they get to go to solitary confinement, instead.

and so. i have become the rebellious one. silently. furtively. when i see the kids trying to form their little groups after they've gotten their food trays, i turn a blind eye. when a kid throws a grape at her friend and her friend throws a wedge of cucumber back, i giggle inside my heart. because they're just being kids. and if they can't have some harmless freedom, then let them steal it, already! let them be renegade kids grabbing a moment of joy by the neck and declaring it "mine!"

why are schools becoming prisons, and students becoming prisoners? why are teachers becoming jail wardens and no longer educators? why is running around in the sun and playing tag a crime? why is sitting beside your friends for lunch considered breaking the rules? and what is it they say about the self-fulfilling prophecy: treat a person like a criminal and he will become a criminal. it's that simple.

i am not a prison guard or warden. i am not a law enforcer or punisher. i am a human. and these kids are humans, too. and if they have to steal their precious moments of joy from between the teeth of THE SYSTEM, i will gladly be an accomplice.