In class tonight

Tonight my Gender and Violence class was starting. Students were filing in, the book group that was going to present was getting ready at the front of the room, and I was unloading my backpack, looking for my class notebook. The door to the hall was open, and I heard people arguing out there. It was one of my students and a guy. "He's yelling at her in front of a room of 35 women," one of my students said. I started paying more attention.

At that point, the boy pushed my student into the classroom, yelling, and pushed her against the wall.

I was on my feet and between them before I knew it. "WHAT are you doing?"

"She was [something--I don't know what he said]."

I raised my voice: "WHAT are you DOING?"

"She was [whatever he said]."

I was completely in his physical space now, looking right in his eyes, swelled up as big as I could make myself. "WHAT is your NAME?"


"Anthony WHAT?" He backed up. I stepped forward, completely blocking him from my student.

"Anthony Markovitch."


At this point he looked a little frightened. "Acting?" he said. "It's a theater piece, for their presentation."

And it was. The book group immediately apologized profusely for not telling me in advance what they were planning to do. My participation didn't throw things off because the class as a whole had the chance to talk about how we felt, what we saw, and what we did or didn't do when we saw a classmate in trouble.

I found the experience oddly validating. I've always wondered what I'd do in a situation like that--whether I'd freeze or take action. It turns out that I have no problem taking action. I was a bad-ass!


Cate Bush said...

Holy Shit. I had chills as I read your post because I too was swept up into the emotion of the argument and your roll in the classroom. I'm glad it was a validating experience and I'm sure it provided amazing material for your class. I had a small flashback of us getting harrassed as kids when we were riding our bikes. Yes, being assertive is good!

Ms. Stubel said...

Woohoo on badassery!

So, I have my e-mails sent to my Blackberry now and when my feed subscription thingie sent this to me, it only sent the beginning half (up to "what is your name?") and I was maybe on the edge of my seat trying to figure out if Alison was kickin' ass and takin' names these days :)

Regardless, very very interesting. Hope you are well!!

Alison said...

YOU were the assertive one when we were getting harassed as kids. You were not taking any shit!

The Dad said...

Yea Alison

Actively pursuing confrontation is always a "reactive" thing. A reaction to the stimuli is, mostly, an automatic or instinctive thing.

This is augmented by the relationship you have with the person who is getting "assaulted". You are possessive of your students. They are yours. So the response to protect is quite strong. There is an even stronger responsive emotion with a sibling or a child (the "mother bear" type thing).

At times like this, getting in their "personal space" with strong, direct statements or commands is quite affective. We have discussed experiences with this method.

As an aside, if is advisable to have the next or second step in the back of your head just in case the person does not back down. A physical approach is the last thing you want to do. Effective next steps would be to say "Call 911" or "Everyone gather around" and build numbers and "witnesses".

Just a few words for the Warrior Teacher.

The Dad

Aaron Piepmeier said...

That's great! You're certainly at a level of conflict management that I'm not at yet...or at least I haven't been "tested" like that yet.

I'm glad you stepped up. Realizations of when some one has been "attacked" is very important. That student (even though it turned out to be fake) was attacked. Another way to put it is "the first 'punch' was already thrown."

In my experience & discussions with martial artists who are experts in self-defense, it is clear that the failure to recognize when the fight has started is one of the MAIN things that separates effectively defending yourself (or others) and becoming a victim.

You followed your gut (your training) and followed through. You should be proud of backing up all that you've taught your students through the years.


Alison said...

It was interesting to me that I made myself big in every way I could, including using my classroom authority--I said, "Why are you harassing a student in my classroom?", making it clear that I am the person in charge here, and you are in my space.

And yes, I knew that I had a room full of 35 women backing me up if things took a turn for the worse. Saying to a student to call 911 is a good idea, too (although in this case I'm glad I didn't!)