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The Tale of the Truth Locker: A 10th Grade Story

Every once in a while, our lives are changed by an event of such sweeping emotional power and intensity that we're left speechless. Maybe it's the ballet Swan Lake. Maybe it's the movie The Notebook. Or maybe it's the Truth Locker.

Now, you're probably thinking, "Ilana, what is the 'Truth Locker'? Have Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal come out with a sequel to their critically acclaimed 2009 war film which I've somehow failed to hear about?" No, friends. It's so much better than that.

Late last week, I came into my 7th period class to find the girls screaming at each other: One of them was yelling, "Why'd you have to say that? I thought you were my friend!" and the other one was yelling "It's true! You know it's true!" Their classmates were gathered around, eagerly awaiting and encouraging the fist-fight that was moments from breaking out. I had no idea what the girls were all yelling about (I still mostly don't), but with my usual Ghandi-esque peace-making skills, I ordered the two main offenders to move across the room from each other and not so much bat eyelashes in each other's direction for the rest of the period. A second screaming match broke out in the hall later that day, followed by a third one in their history class this morning.

According to my 10th period class, who was more willing to gossip with me than their 7th period peers, the issue at hand was something called the Truth Locker. In the girls' gym locker room, there is allegedly a locker in which any person can put a folded up piece of paper containing a "truth." (In a different version of the story, I had heard that the locker was wallpapered, with the idea that kids would write messages on the wallpaper, but now that seems much too far-fetched!) This "truth" can be about yourself or about someone else; the terms of use (and what constitutes "truth") seem pretty loosely defined. At any rate, trouble broke out when some of the 10th grade girls started writing truths about their peers--truths that weren't supposed to get out! Not cool!

Screaming matches between the girls began flaring up in the middle of core subjects. The boys in the sophomore class, meanwhile, expressed regret that they did not also have access to their own "Truth Locker"--they kept asking if they could leave class to go to the gym immediately and make one.

I tried to mediate the conflict, but two of the involved girls told me very politely but firmly, "Sorry, Miss, you can't hear about this." Burned! Like so many tree-houses I'd been kicked out of! However, this afternoon during the students' lunch period (when I was busy helping the seniors with their college essays), a dozen 10th grade girls came in and asked if I would let them hang out in my room and "have a meeting."

"Is this about the Truth Locker?" I asked a little too eagerly. They rolled their eyes, and then asked to borrow the conch shell that I had passed around during Lord of the Flies--which I was about to give them, until someone decided judiciously that the shell was fragile and might be broken if a scuffle ensued, or even if it was held too enthusiastically, so they'd be better off passing around a pom-pom hat (which is what they ended up doing). The girls then arranged the desks into a circle, and spent the entire period talking one by one about their feelings surrounding the Truth Locker and its contents: "I felt upset when I realized you wrote this," or "I think a friend's job is to be loyal," or "Some things are private." The girls listened respectfully to one another; they had brought in an uninvolved classmate to serve as an unofficial moderator, but I noticed that her services were not needed. By the end of their lunch period, it seemed as though things had been smoothed over judging by the level of giggling in the circle.

(Can I pause in my recounting of this completely absurd story to admit that, truthfully, I was more than a little bit impressed by their efforts towards reconciliation?)

And so, in the end, the Truth Locker Debacle of 2013 was resolved without mudslinging, political grandstanding, or government shutdowns . . . wait, what am I talking about again? Oh yeah. Tenth grade. Friendships were renewed, peace prevailed, and everyone lived happily ever after until I announced that marking period grades were due in a week and so I'd be giving a quiz on Montana 1948.

The End . . . or is it?

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