English: Temple at Epcot China in reflecting pool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Spaceship Earth at Epcot at night. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was one of the first to organize the trips to Epcot by a school. I hired five buses and took the entire school minus the students who got into real trouble from December to the day of the trip. It was considered a behavioral modification tactic. I also took on this trip ten teachers and five parents.
My name was on the trip and I guess if it went wrong my career would go down the tubes. So I stayed on my toes for the entire trip.
I had one student, I will call him John. John came to me and begged to go on this trip. John was held back two years for constantly getting into trouble. If the behavioral modification program needed a poster child it was John. I am a little on the crazy side. I told John I would consider it if the Principal okay-ed it. To my amazement he did with two provisos. There were two other students in the same situation. If the three of them got into no trouble from December to May he would allow them to go. Second point they had to walk around with me. I figured there was no way that they would contain themselves. They did. I figure how would they get up the money needed. They did. I figured there was no way they would wake up four o’clock in the morning and catch the bus. They did. I found the cigarette butts where they stood and waited across the street for the busses. They were there at two in the morning. I made them ditch the cigarettes. They did.
The three boys were a mixed lot. A huge White Kid, a Spanish Kid, and a Black Kid. And then there was me. We were a weird group walking around Epcot. We almost did not go. John showed up wearing a tee shirt with words on it. This was a Vietnam shirt, political in nature, It stated, “Kill a commie, for your mommie!” It certainly was not a good selection. I could have sent him home, I should have made the shirt inside out. But I allowed it.
We got there and it went well. Outside of the classroom the three boys acted like real good children. There were looks and stares but they handled everything well. Until we entered the Chinese store. John walked around by himself and the staff, maybe from China read the inscription on the shirt and followed him around like he was a criminal. The other two boys were on the other side of the store. We left within five minutes and that was that.
We were on the way home. Since it was a pretty good distance from Epcot to Pompano Beach the buses took a break at the service station on the turnpike for a thirty minute break. It was during the break that the three boys took me to the side.
They commented that I was the one teacher who they really appreciated. No one else would have taken a chance on them and they wanted to show how they felt. They gave me a bag.
Inside the bag was an object they had gotten from the Chinese Pavilion.
I should have known there was a problem. First it was not wrapped. Second the sticker of how much it cost was still on it. The sticker read 1.500 which they had interpreted as fifteen dollars. A nice gift.
It hit me as I looked at it. John was the decoy and while the store employees were watching him the other two boys purloined this object. They had just given me a stolen object. I saw my career going down the drain. Add to this that they had misinterpreted the number and the real price was a hundred and fifty dollars just made it worse.
I teared up and the boys misinterpreted my wiping my eyes. They stated that if they had known I was so happy about the gift they would have gotten something more. I did not say that any more would get me a berth in a jail cell. I said instead how we would have to keep this a secret because the other teachers would be jealous. I realize that these three were eight graders and soon would be gone from the school. I prayed they would pass.
When I got home I wiped off the “gift” and mailed it with no return address back to Epcot. I went to a distant post office. I do not know if they ever got it. For the next few months I feared all phone calls and any mention of going to the principals office. But I got away with it. It was over thirty years ago so it is over the laws governing disclosure of a theft.
I continued the trips to Epcot but I was always a little more on my toes.