Teaching Tuesday: Fight!

During SRT (student resource time) I heard a shrill noise coming from outside my room. At first I couldn’t quite place it, but when it rang out a second time, I realized it was a whistle. A few years back every teacher in my school was given a whistle and told we should attach it to the lanyards that hold our IDs, which we wear around our necks. Although mine has faithfully been there ever since, I’ve never once blown it. In fact, in the 13 years I’ve been at my current school not only have I never had to blow my whistle, but I’ve never heard anyone else blow theirs either.

That’s not to say we don’t have fights at my school. We do. Sadly, they’ve been occurring with an unnerving frequency lately. However, I cannot actually recall a time there has been a fight upstairs, let alone in my hallway.

My school has two floors, but there are really only three hallways upstairs. Two of the house the science department (and really the second hallway is really only like half a hallway–there are only 4 classrooms in it). The other houses all 12 of the English classrooms,  and four history classrooms. The rest of the school is on the first floor.

Since our hallways are not very wide and they don’t hold any large intersections or gathering places (like the library, gym, cafeteria, auditorium, etc), they aren’t the place to hang out. Those honors all go to downstairs areas, which is why almost every fight that has ever happened, has happened downstairs.

But there I was, standing in my classroom listening to what I now realized was an emergency whistle. Since I knew my newspaper kids would be 100% ok for a minute while I checked out the situation, I told them to stay put and headed into the hallway. Next door, our theater teacher was ushering two boys out of her classroom as carefully as possible. Thankfully her yell, followed by the whistle shocked the boys so much that they stopped thrown punches for a moment. When she started yelling at them to get in the hallway, amazingly, they went.

When they saw not one, not two, but three other English teachers in the hallway as they emerged, they thought better of returning to punches. As she was telling one boy to stay put and one to head to the other side of the hallway, she told us that they’d started a fight in her room. One of the boys was still very upset and started punching the wall. Since there were even more teachers in the hallway now, I told her I’d get the on duty police officer upstairs and ran back into my classroom.

As soon as the call was done, I went back in the hallway and then stood between the two boys, one of whom would not stop pacing, while she went back into her room to call one of the vice principals to make an official report.

Even though there were several other teachers in the hallway, they were all hanging back a bit. I was the only one directly between the boys. I wasn’t worried as they seemed to have calmed down, or at least decided throwing more punches with a cop on the way was the quickest way to get taken out to the squad car rather than just the office.

The officer escorted the first boy, who was obviously more agitated, to the office first. Even he didn’t want to risk them getting back into it. I stayed near the other boy. When he too was removed, our drama teacher told me that she was watching the boys for another teacher who had to go to a meeting. The boys started off joking with each other in a fairly friendly manner and the next thing she knew, they were swinging.

Ironically, a student had just asked her the week before what she’d do if a fight broke out near her. She laughed and said she’d yell for our colleague across the hall who happens to not only be one of the two guys in our department, but also the basketball coach. It was his kids who got in the fight in her room and since he was in a meeting, he couldn’t help at all.

I wonder how many people realize that teachers not only have to know all of our content AND be able to relate it to an children who often wants nothing to do with it, but we also have to put ourselves physically between those children, risking harm to ourselves, to make sure they don’t beat each other bloody.

None of my education classes taught me how to separate a fight.


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