Sunday, February 24, 2008

Time to Give-up

As I have mentioned before, I teach science to seventh graders at a large middle school in Indiana. Most days, I enjoy teaching, and I like teaching the seventh grade child. Although fraught with hormonal issues, the seventh grade child has many endearing moments. On the other hand, the middle school child can be so volatile. Because of the hormones and the volatility, children in the seventh grade tend to fight with each other both verbally and physically. In the past, when my students fight, I would move heaven and earth to stop the fight. A number of times, I have been successful at stopping impending fights and intervening in ongoing altercations.

About two weeks ago, two of my students had some disagreement in the hallway. When I see a fight, my first instinct is to separate the participants. I moved toward the fighting boys and tried to pull one boy away from the other. Additionally, a larger boy moved to separate the two fighters. Somehow, during the conflagration, I was knocked to the floor hitting the back of my head. The fight ended shortly, and some kind students helped me off the floor. I walked one of the boys to the office, and the vice-principal escorted the other boy.

I was not seriously injured from my fall to the floor. Neither boy meant to hurt me. In fact, one of the boys apologized for my fall. However, after reviewing this episode, I am considering changing my response to these explosive situations. Additionally, the security guard and the principal have urged me to refrain from becoming physically involved in the children's squabbles. This may be difficult for me as I instinctively try to prevent violence. However, I may not be the powerful peace advocate that I imagine. Instead, I may be closer to the frail aging woman as seen by my male principal and the male security guard.

Maybe it is time to give-up intervening in the fist-a-cuffs. Of course, I am NOT going to let the children duke-it-out. But, I have been convinced to use a more practical and probably more effective method of stopping fights. That method is to send for help.

27 comments:

Willowtree said...

You've illustrated the two things that sadden me the most, the increasingly volatile world we live in, and the fact that I'm past my prime.

But don't worry, I've got one word for you, taser!

daddy d said...

The management stand is the correct one for student fighting. The last fight I helped out on was so hard hitting that they needed to spend some of that energy before anyone could get them apart.

Sunshine said...

As the parent of a middle schooler, I think middle school teacher's should be paid hazardous duty pay for the ATTITUDE alone!

ChrisB said...

I second what WT said. I was having a discussion with my hubby over the weekend about intervening. I know this wasn't in a school situation but I said it would be best to steer clear and get help he disagreed and said this is why society is going towards anarchy. While I may not disagree with him , I would rather not put myself in the position of being injured or even being killed. I do think teachers have such a difficult time but you need to keep yourself safe.

Beccy said...

That sounds pretty dicey Molly, I'm glad you're ok.

Dad (chrisb's hubby) always encouraged us to stand up to bullies or to help out people in danger even if it meant putting ourselves in danger. This led to some very heated family dscussions and still would today. Much as we would like to intervene I think that in some situations that is not possible, I guess we have to be careful how we judge things.

Karmyn R said...

I like WT's suggestion of Taser - but considering that would probably be highly unethical for you - I would suggest a bullhorn. You know - that way when a kid starts fighting - you could just blow it in the air and startle them out of it. :)

When I was in JrHigh - I only remember one fight happening. It was during PE and our teacher was in a wheelchair. She could do absolutely NOTHING. Looking back, I think it must have been very frustrating for her.

Anonymous said...

Oh my Molly,
I am not sure I am ready to go through that age again. I am glad you were not seriously injured...but a head ache is still too much of an injury.

REM

Margaret said...

Oh, ouch! We had a speaker from the police several years ago, and he told us that we should not get involved in fights. We should walk, not run to the altercation, and yell sternly, "STOP FIGHTING NOW, GENTLEMEN" or if one knows the kids' names, use them as many times as possible. I did the same as you though--in a high school fight. I mistakenly thought that they would stop swinging. They didn't. I wasn't hit, but must have looked ridiculous trying to dodge blows. I hope you're feeling OK!

Beckie said...

That does sound dicey - I am glad that you came out of it OK. I understand your first instinct is to intervene.

karisma said...

I am appalled! My sweet Molly, my reaction is outrage! Dinoboy (8 years old) is coming over to punch them out (as he puts it, mind you, greenie that he is, he is currently sweeping up rice he spilled on the floor and singing, yes singing a little tune about his dilemma " Rice, rice, rice is very nice! Im sweeping up the rice! He is saving it for further use in craft, he spilled the whole container while putting it away after making some marackers. ) The captain at 15 is also outraged. She is forever standing up for her favourite teachers at school. She is ready to kill some of the "naughty kids'at school, just for being rude as she puts it, to the teachers. Needless to say, Im very proud of my offspring, they hopefully, will be very well adjusted adults.

Mwah, I hope your head is not sore, my favourite teacher!

debi said...

This sounds scarey to me.Yes, please call for help from now on. I have a hard time realzing that I am not 30 anymore and might need to ask for help. But I am not dealing with fighting teenagers. Lucky for you it wasn't girls. They scare me.

Kila said...

Oh, I do worry about my oldest boy going off to middle school next year.

What you need is Pepper Spray! (J/K)

Or maybe get a stop sign you can hold up?

Or blow a whistle (which will startle them and attract help)?

Stay safe!

susan said...

Scarey stuff.

I'm glad you are ok and realize that these kids have just gotten too volatile to break up. A couple months ago a girl...that I've known since she was in first grade...threw a chair at her teacher because she was angry. Out of control.

I'm curious, in your opinion, do kids seem more violent now then they used to or is that something we just say?

swampy said...

I was in the classroom for 25 years, mostly middle school, and saw my share of 'confrontations.'
Very seldom did I step in to stop any of them, but on occasion, if another teacher was there to help, I would.
I saw more and more violence the longer I taught. And, that was among the teachers, not the students. :)

LizB said...

When I taught middle school, it only took me getting slapped in the face once to make me decide NOT to step in between the kids. I keep other students from jumping in, I verbally instruct them to stop, I call the office, etc., but I'm not going to get physically involved, especially now that I teach high school. I won't try to break up two behemoths athletes engaged in fisticuff, nor will I step in between two weave-pulling girls. I'm so relieved that you weren't seriously injured, and you're doing the right thing by not putting yourself in harm's way.

lisa marie said...

I don't think you'e old and frail but I do think kids are less respectful than they used to be and you should't risk yourself in breaking them up.

Pamela said...

That is when you need one of those ear shattering air horns.

Pamela said...

oh I see Karmyn thought of the same thing. I should have read the comments first.

Did you ever pop over and see your grandma award on my blog? I have a hard time picturing myself as old and gray and frail -- In my mind I'm still 39

Tanya Brown said...

Is there a more unpredictable force of nature than young, testosterone-filled males spoiling for a "good" fight? If they were in the wild, they'd surely be missing a tusk or part of an antler.

I doubt that you're a frail, aging woman and I doubt that you're at all helpless. I imagine, having been around youngsters for quite some time, that you have a good feel for when a matter is serious.

However, if "management" is giving you a clear policy statement on the matter, it's probably just as well to turn it over to the security people, who are getting paid to handle exactly this sort of thing. There may even be liability issues involved.

Too bad high pressure fire hoses are impractical for indoor use!

Tiggerlane said...

I'm with karmyn r - but to be honest, getting kids' attention these days might require shooting a much more lethal firearm in the air as warning.

I think the increased acceptance of violence in our society has led to this type of behavior in our children. The first reality show was "Cops," and now that show is tame compared to some of the fisticuffs we see on today's "reality" shows.

Stay clear, Molly - and do call for help. I am young, yet I wouldn't even begin to know how to separate anyone at my daughter's middle school. Too daring.

Nekked Lizard Lady said...

You have my utmost respect and admiration for your profession. Middle school has got to be the hardest on teachers. Thank you for doing what you do. You are part of the solution in a day when there's so many who are part of the problem.

Arkansas Songbird said...

I, like you, have always "jumped in the middle" of any physical altercations between my students. The one time I was actually injured occurred when two girls got into a fight. I got an elbow in the mouth and a split lip which began bleeding profusely. Needless to say, my blood dripping on the floor promptly ended the fight.

captain corky said...

I'm glad you didn't get seriously hurt. I think it's time you took a page out of Joe Clark's book and start carrying around a bullhorn and a baseball bat. Whack one or two kids upside the head and they'll understand that it's not a good idea to mess around with MJD!

TheBirdman33 said...

I'm glad you are ok!

In my business, when dogs are fighting we spray them with water bottles to break up the attention. As absurd as it may seem in a school setting, I bet it would have the same result.

Cazzie!!! said...

Send for help indeed. When I think of it, we have the security guards at work and well, without them to call a "Code Grey" to I think us nurses would be in as much danger as teachers with fighting students/patients you know.
It is so wise not to intervene during such volatile happenings. A zero tolerance to violence on all levels in schools is a great thing to adopt, just enforcing it is difficult with the kids isn't it?
Take care :)

Molly said...

Foolhardy to step in the way of all that unbridled testosterone! Glad you're okay. I think you're new way is smarter....

Robocop said...

They should allow the carrying of Mace in schools by teachers. A little spice would have broke up that fight.