Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Hero

Every once in a while, when I sub for high school, I will have to deal with teenagers fighting. Not fighting like me and my sisters did, which was just yelling and swatting the air in front of each other like lazy cats, but serious fighting. Street Fighter karate-chopping/punching/ouch my nose! fighting.

I would rather watch the grass grow than watch this.

I am not a fighter. When I see fighting, my first instinct is to run for cover. I’m not trying to be a hero by breaking it up. Some teenage boys have this weird urge to show who’s more aggressive, like mountain goats ramming their horns into each other while the female goats just stare into the distance, chewing. Wanna know my motto? Make love, not war actually don’t do that either, kids. Just don’t touch each other. At all.

When I did my student teaching at a high school in East LA, two girls began fighting in class. One girl was passing out textbooks, and she lifted one to chuck it at another girl’s head. Immediately the class erupted and as I stood at the front gathering papers, I saw that book go flying and my first thought was to head for the door. I wasn’t even finished paying off my invisalign, I was not about to lose a tooth! Or worse, my nose! I thought of the bandages and bruising while my classroom went wild. Luckily my master teacher ran to break them up and immediately escorted them to the office. I stood there, like a traumatized mouse, and then said the first thing that came to my mind, which was “So….ummm….can we talk about the French Revolution now?”


The only way I know how to prevent fighting is to say something really stupid to distract the heated students. In my art class (I taught for 5 months at the local high school while the regular teacher was off reproducing) two boys began discussing something that gradually got more and more serious. I could see the tempers flaring so I said “Hey! Guess what? I really, really don’t want to fill out a referral form for either of you, so if you’re going to start boxing, I’d appreciate it if you like, waited until you were nowhere near me, so I don’t have to get involved. Is that cool? Just wait until I’m gone. Okay?” The class started to laugh and the boys relaxed a little, if only to wonder how anyone let me in charge of them.

So this brings me to yesterday, where I see two boys about to get to punching in the parking lot. I was in my car, so I did the only thing I could think of, which was to honk my horn. It startled them, and I did my best I’M A TEACHER AND I’LL CALL THE PRINCIPAL even though I don’t know the number so I'll just hold the phone to my ear and pretend look and they stopped. They parted ways, the crowd dispersed, and the fight was over. It was awesome.

See, I guess I can be a hero, with my stupid comments or my car horn.


  1. I actually think the humor tactic works well - I make that same joke when I'm seeing tensions flare. But the car horn would've been funny to witness! Just the shocked look on their faces, hahaha...

    Another tactic is to reassign seats - if kids are getting nasty with each other, I move them away from each other ASAP, and it tends to diffuse the situation as well.

  2. Whoa, good call! I never knew horn honking could be so effective.

  3. I once used my car horn to break up a dog fight! Quite, quite effective.

  4. That's why I chose to get my degree in Early Childhood Education! I don't think I could deal with things like that!

  5. I find sarcastic humor works well. I tell them to wait until after school or tell them to please stop touching each other. The touching each other comment can be very effective. Probably not the best teaching strategy but ummm, yah . . . it gets me through the day.

    Immense rage coming from a very quiet, young teacher in a dress and pearls is effective too. It really shocks them.

    I had a bad day on outdoor duty at lunch where I broke up multiple fights. When the last one started, I was so ticked that I had to deal with all this crap, I screamed so loud that they just stopped and stared at me in shock and quietly followed me inside to the office. It was awesome and a staff room story for the week. :-)