The Threat

Her name was Kia. It actually took me a few days to remember that, though I have never forgotten her face. What made me remember her name? I recalled that at the time I taught her, I had associated her name with a fledgling car company. Then I remembered. I was a first year teacher. She was in my difficult sophomore class. They began testing me the second day. I was trying get a student who had just been enrolled in the class set with books and a syllabus, and I had this crazy idea that the class should be working quietly while I did this. They had another idea. I remember becoming so frustrated at one point that I told the class that it should be so quiet that I could hear a pin drop. Of course, I’m from the South, so pen/pin sound the same to us. They all dropped their pens. I remember the dread I felt at that moment. They were going to be difficult. And they sure were.

I had 33 students in that class. I had to put my large desks in tables because they wouldn’t fit otherwise. I was never given enough desks for all the students in that class. The class tested me at every turn. We were all confined together for 90 minutes every day due to the asinine 4X4 block schedule our school had adopted. No one will ever be able to convince me that a 4X4 block is a good idea. Oh sure, I had four classes each day. I also had each of them for 90 minutes.

I can’t remember anymore why I had asked Kia to go to the office. I remember very clearly that she was digging in her heels and wouldn’t leave. It was becoming a power struggle. I finally picked up her backpack, preparing to escort her myself when she snapped. She threatened me. To be honest, I can’t even remember what she threatened to do. I turned on my heel and went straight to the principal. That’s when I melted into a puddle of tears. A student had threatened to actually, physically hurt me.

I might be able to consider myself lucky compared to other teachers — I have only been threatened once. Once was enough. Kia was suspended for five days. Then she was returned to my classroom without incident. The principal visited my class a couple of times after that just to make sure all was well. I did not go home the day of the incident, even though my principal offered. To me, that would be like letting the kids know Kia won. I knew for sure the kids would talk about it. I knew it would be all over the school.

Kia was strange for the rest of the year. One would think she would give me dirty looks whenever she saw me, but it was quite the opposite. She would smile and say hello. As if nothing had happened. I still scratch my head over it.

Watching Freedom Writers put me in mind of this experience and several others I had, both as a student and as a teacher. When I reflect on this experience after nearly 10 years have passed, I don’t feel angry. I can’t even remember the details. Funny, isn’t it? One would expect never to forget something like that. And I had trouble even remembering her name.

[tags]Freedom Writers, school violence[/tags]

2 thoughts on “The Threat”

  1. I worked with a new teacher last year who had a similar, though far more frightening, experience on her third day in the classroom. An entire class rebelled, throwing paper at her, throwing bookbags across the room, refusing to sit down, etc. I myself have never had such an experience as a teacher. I can only imagine how awful it must have been for her.

    I had been observing this young woman in this very class just minutes before the mutiny. I had noted that she was assertive and doing the best she could with a very difficult group of kids. I felt confident when I left that she was managing as well as anyone could and that things would only get better as she and the students got to know each other. When I returned to discuss the observation with her later in the day, she dissolved in tears as she described her experience. I helped her in reporting the incident to the administration, who acted swiftly and appropriately in dealing with these unruly students.

    Like you, this young woman stuck it out, teaching the rest of the day and becoming one of our strongest and best new teachers by the end of the year. I've never been more impressed by a teacher's commitment than I was by hers. I still contend that there are few jobs out there as emotionally draining or as taxing to one's self-esteem as that of first year teacher.

  2. My honors chem class on Thursday was pulling some of that.

    I had overlooked a girl in the last row with her hand up asking for help.

    During the lecture she started clicking her pen. For the first minute or so nobody was on her side but my lecture was dry math and the rest of the class, 50% or so, picked up the pen clicking, drownding out the kids that were giving answers to the math.

Comments are closed.