Pop Quiz: I’ll Throw A Firecracker At Her Face If I Feel Like It
Teaching high school students can be such a wonderful and rewarding experience. I’ve gone home from work on an emotional high so many times for so many reasons, almost always because of the delight that can come from working with young people who are, at the heart of it, good and positive human beings. I’d imagine that lots of teachers get the same old questions from their non-teacher friends when the topic of working with teenagers comes up. Questions about violence, fear, disrespect, frustration, and so on. I had those same questions in my mind when I first went into training. I doubt that any high school teacher would claim that their job is completely devoid of any of those things, but in my own personal experience the job tends to be far more positive than negative. Teenagers can be moody and surly, sure, but in my experience it’s pretty uncommon for something reeeeally bad to happen.
Today was an uncommon day.
It was the end of lunch, the bell had gone, and a class of twelve year olds was waiting patiently outside my colleague’s classroom. She had been doing supervision duties in a dining hall at the other end of the school and her quiet, good-natured class were quite happy to line up outside her room as she made her way back through the crowds.
It only took a few seconds for the incident to happen. One of the few really notorious older pupils in the school, a hulking sixteen year old, walked past with three of his friends. They weren’t wearing school uniform and they had spent most of the morning truanting their various classes; they’d come back onto school premises because it was lunch time. These four boys are well-known throughout the school for their extremely challenging behaviour and have been the subjects of many, many interventions and behaviour management programmes. The leader of the group reached into his pocket, pulled something out, and threw it into the face of a girl who was waiting outside my colleague’s room. That something was one of those tiny little twisted-paper firecrackers, the ones that are filled with a minute amount of gunpower so that they go “CRACK” and unleash an acrid burning smell when they’re thrown against something. Like a face.
The boys walked on, laughing, and then ducked down a nearby stairway. They then left the school to truant the rest of the day. They left behind a young girl who, although not physically hurt, was sobbing and shaking. She didn’t know these boys, had no reason to ever associate with them, and had been minding her own business. She had no idea why she had been targeted. The fact that she was quiet, tiny, and (most importantly) highly unlikely to hit back probably had something to do with it.
Of course, all sorts of discipline procedures swung into action. The girl was taken care of and soothed. The head teacher was summoned and he made the decision to involve the police, both because of the physical nature of the incident and because the boys had left school premises. All of this just happened this afternoon so I’m not sure what the results of all of these things are yet. I’m sure we’ll all find out on Monday morning.
I love my job and I’ve drawn so much happiness from it over the years, but then something like this happens and it is sickening. A lovely, polite, quiet young person gets singled out and assaulted, leaving them terrified, for no obvious reason. The perpetrators saunter off, completely unconcerned by what’s just happened. These events are rare, but when they happen it feels like they confirm all the stereotypes that my non-teacher friends seem to hold about this job.
I’d be really interested to know what other people think about incidents like this. Do you have experience of schools where events like this would simply never happen?
Does this event seem relatively minor compared to school incidents that you’ve witnessed or been involved in?
If you were a parent and this happened to your child, what would you want from the school? How would you respond?
The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.
Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons