Saturday, January 23, 2010


Yesterday was the day. Two students went at it big time right in front of me in my classroom. The relationships I had with them and a stern voice weren't enough to ward off the fight. While I know I wasn't the cause of the conflict, the fact that it happened on my watch is rather disheartening. In spite of the improvement I've seen in my students and in my own ability to teach them, crap like this still has to go ahead and happen.

It all started when one of my students lost interest in the homework he was supposed to start to keep him occupied for the last bit of class. As dead time in general is a death sentence for management, I made it clear that every student was to be in his or her seat completing the day's lesson or beginning the homework. He wasn't into that. Instead he thought he'd walk around and lightly slap everyone's paper with a long eraser, I suppose to say "hello" or simply make sure everyone knew he was alive. Whatever it was, it was not well-received by one particular young lady, who I'm sure decided that by calling him a "faggot," everything would be set straight, put in order and we'd all get back to work. Too bad Eraser Boy felt being called a "faggot" was the gravest insult one could possibly receive.

So, in spite of the fact that I was already standing beside them, it escalated. Eraser Boy put his fist on her chin and pushed it a couple feet in one direction. "Faggot" Girl then slapped Eraser Boy in the face, causing his glasses to go flying across the room. Eraser Boy, already incredibly imbalanced in so many ways, was now backed into a corner via impaired vision and announced to the heavens that he "don't care if she's a girl," and lunged for her, the result of which was both of them hitting, slapping, punching and tossing one another around while I tried to pry them apart. I pulled Miss Slaps-A-Lot off of Eraser boy, and dragged her across the room while instructing another student to go and fetch a useful adult, and then shoved Eraser Boy out of the classroom.

Now, last year this would have been cause for celebration on the part of the other students in the classroom. Class would have been officially over and the gossip mill would have been in full swing. Half of all eighth graders would have been informed of the fight via text message within five minutes and there may very well have been another fight scheduled later that day just for kicks. The aftermath of this fight was much different, however. The students knew it was a terrible thing and there was something like embarrassment, empathy for their comrades or something that left a much more somber feeling in the room. According to one student who was a bit dazed, fights are only supposed to happen in bad teachers' classrooms. I took that as a compliment and thought perhaps the somber feeling was the result of complete surprise that the fight happened.

Advice for the First Years
If things feel like they're about to well up and explode, it's tough to say what is the best action to take. Last year a blow-out fight happened in my class after one kid was throwing highlighters across the room (not an irregular occurrence). After walking across the room to apologize, that student received a fist in the face after being misinterpreted, which led to desks flying and me pulling apart a couple of the larger students in my grade (both over-aged).

Unfortunately, fights happen in a lot of schools. Most of the time the students who actually fight are those who have a lot of other problems they're dealing with.

Today, after everything was cleared up, I was told by another teacher that when other teachers hear about this fight, it won't reflect on my management, rather than on the fact that these two students are nuts. I can't help but to think that I should have seen it coming, though, or should have more forcefully restrained Eraser Boy before things got out of hand. Perhaps both perspectives should be considered, but regardless- it sucks when things go down right in your classroom.

Chin up though. You can't stop all of the fights in the world. If a fight does occur in your class, make sure to think about the things that led up to it so you can diffuse the next one more easily. That and constantly working to improve are your best bets at keeping the fighting out of your classroom. After the fight yesterday, I'll be cracking down on anyone out of their seat without a hand raised, which is one of my classroom rules anyway.

Today's Wine: Il Poggio dei Vigneti Chianti 2004. This guy was pretty good- not too dry and not terribly fruity. It has the D.O.C.G. stamp of approval, which I've just now learned is a quality insurance label given to food and wine in Italy. It also has my stamp of approval.

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