Which One’s the Referee?

7 May

One day in school I was standing outside my door waiting for the bell to ring when suddenly a fight broke out in the hallway. Two students, seemingly from out of nowhere, began slugging it out right in front of me. Without thinking I did what any good referee would have done and stepped into the middle of the clinch and separated the combatants with my arms. Thankfully the students in question were flyweights and not heavyweights or I’d probably still be there, crushed like a slice of sandwich meat between two hoagie rolls.

Anyway, I tossed one of the students into a row of lockers while I pushed the other up against my classroom door, holding him there while yelling for help. A teacher always has to yell for help in a situation like this because the other students in the hall will never offer any assistance whatsoever. Those who aren’t closing in to form  the traditional spectator ring are too busy microwaving their popcorn in the hopes of settling down into a nice long championship bought.

And if it’s two girls fighting? Forget about any chance of help…The cheering mob will become the very best Hollywood paparazzi with their cell phone cameras and iPods all a twitter in the hopes of catching an impromptu topless ingénue to tweet around the world…

But again I digress…for security soon arrived and the fighters were removed to their corners while the disappointed crowd broke up and went off to class. But my own students were in awe of me for the remainder of my class period as I was now the old man who still had “skills” and I must admit that it felt good to have stepped into a crisis and to have prevailed with the use of quick wits and brute force while helping to avoid a larger brawl. (And with no guns!)

And later that day the building principal came up to me to offer his approval, support and praise for a job well done. However, he then offered me a word of caution…

“Be careful out there, he said. Apparently you broke up a fight between two rival gang members and now they might be out to get you. Watch your back!”And with that he was off bounding down the hallway to no doubt spread cheer among another unsuspecting colleague.

One of the things that can make being a teacher difficult and exhausting these days is that sometimes doing the right thing can somehow be the wrong thing.

18 Responses to “Which One’s the Referee?”

  1. Blog Raju May 7, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    If the students are known gang members who might threaten a teacher, they should be expelled.

    • gpicone May 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      One of the big problems that public schools have is that it has become very difficult to expel students and that is one of the main reasons why charter schools have become quite the rage.

      • Blog Raju May 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

        School should be seen as a privilege. It is not a “right” to which all are entitled.

    • norfolked May 7, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

      Where do the student go who have been expelled ? Do they disappear ? Are their problems solved ?

  2. Jae May 7, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    Often the right thing wouldn’t be the right thing if it weren’t the hard thing. Maybe you can somehow stress the point with students that what they do outside of school is their business, but that in school, fighting is unacceptable. I know, easier said than done. I still think you did the right thing, especially as a teacher. I’m sure these days it’s getting to be a scary job. 😦

  3. TechChucker May 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    I’m still amazed that schools don’t punish the spectators as well. Those who stand and watch doing nothing and even cheering. Those kids should get suspensions as well. Not saying the kids need to break up the fight, but they should be punished for being bad people for enjoying it. That might help reduce fighting as well if people around get into trouble as well.

    I used to work for a public school and we didn’t have fights very often, but they seemed to punish the kids pretty well so it only happened a little. The bigger issues were in the middle school grades which was/is the prime recruitment age for gangs which there were 18 active gangs in our area at the time I worked there.

    I commend you for your actions and I hope you have support from your colleagues for what you did.

  4. jayirish44 May 7, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    I work in a high school. This resonates with me like it was my own daily experience. Enjoy your thoughts and writing style

  5. crossinh May 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Congrats for doing what was right and I hope there are no negative repercussions. I think the biggest fear would be getting hurt while breaking up the fight itself, especially after what happened to the soccer coach who got hit by a player.

  6. francisguenette May 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    You describe a complicated situation – one that initially had me chuckling at your new found rep with your class and the line – be careful out there – reminded me of an old police TV show. Then of course the darker side to such things. If life was as easy as kicking everyone out who caused a problem – well, life would be easy, right? Schools are a microcosm of society – plain and simple – a mere reflection of everything we are creating all around us. Ah well . . .

  7. Animalcouriers May 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Not a good place to find yourself but very impressed you broke up the fight. In the UK you’d probably have been sued by the fighters as you dared to lay hands on them. It truly is a mad world.

  8. norfolked May 7, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Purpose of Life is a Life of Purpose and commented:
    It’s fascinating to hear from one of our American colleagues. Also good to see the issues are the same !

  9. adventures May 7, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Great work braving the fight and breaking it up. I don’t understand though, why the “known gang members” are allowed to roam the halls among the other students. My teenagers go to public school, but the school has a zero tolerance policy for gangs, violence and such. Actually, they have surprise weapon & drug searches pretty regularly. Anyone caught offending goes straight to juvenile or jail if they are 17 or older. How is it “allowed”?

  10. cindyricksgers May 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Nice post…shows several sides of a complicated issue. Thanks!

  11. Merifully May 8, 2013 at 12:16 am #

    Reminds me of the one time I broke up a fight. I’m 4’9″. I may have to write about that now. Thanks for posting this!

  12. Merifully May 8, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    Wait. I’ve broken up two fights. Huh. Memory is a funny thing, is it not?

  13. TamrahJo May 8, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    The teachers in the small, pretty tame, rural community I live in do not make enough.

    I’m certain you do not even come close to making ‘hazardous duty’ pay.

    I know it’s not about the money, always, but I think of years ago, when I was an assistant for the Public Safety office of a college that had Criminal Justice system – that first spring, two recruiters from a metropolis to the south of us came up to recruit from the graduating class. They stopped by our office and over coffee confided that a rookie on their force had a 48% chance of not making it the first 6 months – meaning, being killed in the line of duty.

    That shocked me and your story reminds me of the dangers students and Staff face every day in some schools – – – I so desire for it to be different

    With best hopes for your safety – –

  14. avwalters May 8, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    Years ago I was substitute teaching (French) in a junior high. Out of nowhere, two girls jumped up and began exchanging blows. I was in total shock. Girls! I tried to separate them, but it was a snarling cat fight. I wasn’t much bigger than the smaller of the two. I remembered that they use water to break up fighting dogs. Someone had left a big old bucket of dirty mop water in the hall by the door of my class, so I used to intercom to summon help and grabbed the mop bucket and doused the girls. They were stunned. The fight stopped just in time for the vice-principal to arrive and haul them off, dripping. The rest of the students were totally grossed out by the dirty water. What else was I to do?

    In the days following a number of teachers stopped to congratulate me on my quick response–but they all expressed reservations about…..the dirty water. Sheesh, it’s not like I had a choice.

  15. Maurice A. Barry May 8, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    In a totally unrelated way–well sort of–I have an original vinyl album containing Richard Pryor’s ‘referee’ skit. It still makes me laugh. Fistfights in corridors, however, do not.

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