EXT. HOOVER HIGH SCHOOL/hallway – DAY
Erdmann walks along as Jason talks to him.
But I’ve been preparing to teach those classes, that’s what I was hired to do-
I’m aware of that, Bright. Principal Bloom didn’t do us any favors by disappearing like that. I was all set up to be assistant principal at a middle school across town until last Wednesday. Things change. New opportunities.
Erdmann gets to a door, finds the key for it and shoves it open.
INT. HOOVER HIGH SCHOOL/room c300 – DAY
It’s a hovel, the wreckage of what was once a classroom. Desks and chairs are piled in the center like a bonfire waiting to be lit. The walls are covered with stains and graffiti. Erdmann flicks the lights on: som flicker, some are just dead.
jason looks like he wants to cry, but Erdmann smiles and raises his eyebrows.
Oh, great! The textbooks are here!
There’s a huge stack of bedraggled and marked-up test prep books on the floor. Erdmann goes to one, flips through it: the cover is marked ‘Preparing For California’s State Test In English 2007′.
The book falls apart as he opens it and falls to the floor. Erdmann looks at Jason, shrugs.
Okay, don’t use that one-
Jason sags against the wall and looks around at the destruction. Erdmann shakes his head and steps over to Jason.
Look, ‘Jason’, right? Jason, you’ve got two days to make this work. We don’t need Chaucer and Longfellow; we need to teach these kids to make cohesive sentences and not use the ‘f-word’ in an essay. If you’re not a real teacher, if you’re going to quit, please, do it now, so I can find a professional with the guts to take the job before we open on Tuesday. Okay?
He waits for an answer. Jason looks around, looks at Erdmann and nods. Erdmann smiles and claps him on the shoulder.
Good! I knew it. We’ll make this work.
He bustles off, whistling.
Jason walks slowly to the ‘teacher’s desk’ at the front of the room. He pulls out the chair and looks down.
Someone has carved the words ‘YOU ARE DEAD’ into the desktop. He pulls the chair over and sits down. He opens the drawer to his right: empty vodka bottles roll into view as he does. He shuts the drawer-
and then the chair collapses and he falls backwards onto the floor.
Jason looks up at the ceiling and sighs.
INT. jason’s condo/kitchen – night
Hayden is fixing dinner and talking on the phone.
Well, you can’t stay there all night!
INT. HOOVER HIGH SCHOOL/ROOM C300 – night
Jason is on his phone, stripped down to his undershirt. Things look better: the desks have been moved, things have been cleaned, the walls have been stripped bare. Jason checks his watch.
Another hour, then I’ll come home. You wouldn’t believe it. I think someone was pissing in the corner, huge stain. Who does that? I’ll bring some bleach and stuff tomorrow.
Tomorrow is Rudy and Becky’s anniversary thing in Costa Mesa, remember? At five?
Shit. I don’t-
We were in their wedding, they said they’ll be in ours, we have to go.
Jason looks around, shrugs.
I’ll come back in the morning. See you in an hour. Love you.
He starts cleaning again. He reaches over and turns on an MP3 player.
‘And now, part three of ‘Teaching For Keeps’ by Doctors Derek and Melissa Wallins.’
Jason grins to himself. As the audiobook plays, he mouths the words along with his parents and smirks from time to time.
‘One of the things a teacher has to do is bridge the gap between the teacher and the student. The teacher is often separated by years of life experience, by socio-economic level, by place of origin or race-’
Or they don’t piss in the corner-
Often, in seminars, we ask teachers: how many songs can you name on the popular music charts? What was the latest big movie for your students’ age group?Even simple things like the idea of a weekly allowance, something older people would-’
INT. church – night
Near the altar, LULU GARZA (42, Hispanic) speaks to a group of parents in Spanish.
In the back, Georgia sits with JUAN (25, neat) who translates in a whisper for Georgia.
‘But if we can’t even start the school year without finding a dead body at this school, how safe will your child, or yours, or mine be once the school year starts? With a new, untried principal and over a quarter-’
Georgia’s phone vibrates, she looks down and puts a hand on Juan’s arm to stop him.
Make sure she mentions the parent trigger forms. Make sure they take the forms when we put out the coffee and the- did you get cakes, the kind these people like?
Yes, they’re called ‘pan dulces’ and-
Whatever, great. Put the forms in their hands, make sure she tells them.
She steps into the entryway of the church, the ‘narthex’, to make her call.
Yes…that’s your job, Mack. I just want them pissing their pants and begging to leave. Go after the surfer guy, and that little art teacher with the glasses. Do something about that goofy coach- he’s a true believer,shake him up, make him lose his faith. Oh, and the old lady. You break her and we’re on our way.
INT. HOOVER HIGH SCHOOL/ROOM C300 – DAY
Jason stands by his desk, neat in a tie and sweater-vest. On the board behind him is an outline of the day’s activities, ‘Welcome to Mr. Bright’s English class’ and a few smiley faces…
He looks at the clock: 7:40. The bell rings. Out in the hallway, voices, feet: students are coming, his first students. He nervously smiles, fidgets, fights the smile-
And the door opens and the kids stream in. All colors, all races. They ignore his greetings, they walk by and sit wherever they want, they cuss and shout and call each other names and laugh- but they’re not looking at theguy in front.
Jason nods and smiles and waits for the bell.
INT. HOOVER HIGH SCHOOL/ROOM C300 – DAY
The kids are quiet and looking around while Jason speaks:
But the main goal we’re going to work toward is getting all of you passing scores on the state tests. If you can score over three-sixty on the math or the English part, you’ll be set up to graduate, you’ll never have to take it again and you’ll be able to get into a college-prep class, prepare for the next-
TRENT (16, bald, neck like a bull) raises his hand and speaks over Jason:
I passed that shit.
Oh. Well, if you passed the tests, you should be in- what’s your name?
Jason checks the list on his clipboard.
Trent, you got a two-eighty on English and two-fifty on the math. But we’re going to work on-
Passed that shit over the summer.
The, uh…the state doesn’t give those tests over the summer. Are you sure you’re not-
Trent stands up, glaring at Jason.
You calling me a liar, bitch?
The kids hoot a little at this as Jason tries to cool things with a smile and direct eye contact.
No, not at all. People make mistakes- you take one test, you think it’s-
You saying I’m wrong?
HUMBERTO (17, tall, scars) laughs at Trent from his seat.
Trent, shut up- you know you too dumb to pass those tests- shut-
Fuck you, Berto. Surfer-dude here called me a liar, what? You think-
Sit down, stupid-
and just like that, it’s on: Trent steps in, Humberto comes out of his chair and hits Trent in the face in a single movement. Trent recoils and comes back in with punches to the face, the gut. The fighters stand and get their balance as the kids hoot and back away.
Jason shouts for them to stop, but they ignore him. The fighters trade blows and the fight moves closer and closer to Jason as he keeps trying to stop the fight without getting too close-
-and then Tent slips on a sweatshirt on the floor. As he struggles to his feet, Jason dashes out into the hall-
and there’s Peggy, trotting up in her uniform, holding a black canister.
Officer! There’s a fight in-
Peggy looks him over, then steps past him into the room.
She sees the fighters, holds up the canister- it’s a bear-sized canister of Mace- and sprays down the fighters, as well as the kids on either side of them. The room fills with fog as the other kids scream and choke and rush out into the hall. Peggy hits and kicks the fighters even though they’ve stopped fighting.
Jason moves forward to stop her, pauses- and Peggy turns and hits him with a blast of Mace as he’s standing there. Jason chokes and falls backward into the hall with the kids.
INT. HOOVER HIGH SCHOOL/HALLWAY – day
Kids and teachers have poured out of other rooms and it’s pandemonium. Teachers shout for calm, but the Mace drifts to them and they start choking.
Around the corner, TONYA FREEMAN (60, Black, serious as a heart attack) steps to Jason, who is standing there half-blind. She grabs his wrist and pulls him out of the fog, down the hall to clearer air.
That’s Mace. The longer you stand there, the worse it gets. Don’t you new teachers know anything?
She sprays white vinegar into his face and starts wiping his eyes with a rag.
White vinegar cuts the oils in the aerosol base. You’ll be able to see in a few minutes, breathe through-
Peggy steps around the corner, sees the two of them and stops. A look passes between the women, but Jason can’t see it.
Freeman nods at the Mace canister in Peggy’s hand.
I’ve got this one. You might set up some fans at the end of the hallway, blow the stuff out the window.
Peggy turns and walks away.