As shocking as it may sound, there are fights in school from time to time. Straight-up fist fights with a crowd in a tight circle, hooting and hollering, kids running from all corners of the building to see. There are even times with no security guards present, when a single teacher may try to handle the situation.
Over the years I've stopped my share of fights, and I have even developed a simple formula for determining whether or not I should step in and try to break it up:
Examine combatants. Are girls involved?
If NO, step in and stop the fight.
If YES, yell like hell for security and stand back.
This formula has prevented major injury to both my body and spirit. But I learned it the painful way.
Of the six or seven boy fights I've stopped, here's what typically has happened: Boys have squared off, perhaps have taken swings at each other, perhaps have ended up in a tight embrace. I squeeze myself in between them, loudly say something about having them arrested if either so much as touches me, and they stop fighting. This is because most boys don't really want to fight, don't want to get hurt, don't want to lose. And they're looking for a way out. With me in between them, they can leave with ego intact: I fought, and I would've won, but this teacher man wouldn't let me.
Girls are different.
The last time I tried to break up a girl fight (I mean, the first time I tried to break one up) was four years ago. I heard the distinct yelling in the hallway that clearly signals a fight. I saw the bodies running past my door towards a nearby staircase. I popped my head out of my classroom. No adults around, just lots of teenagers yelling and laughing. I raced over to see two girls swinging wildly at each other, grabbing chunks of hair, falling to the ground. I realized I knew both of them. One was in my fourth period, the other I had the previous year. Both were about five feet tall, petite, sweet Latino girls. No problem, I thought.
I got close, yelled both of their names. "Stop!" I yelled. They kept going. I grabbed one, pulled her away, the whole time yelling her name into her ear. The other girl took the opportunity to mount an attack, with me in between. For five or ten seconds, I was stuck. In that time, I was pinched, scratched, and punched repeatedly, I have no idea by whom or how many times. Security guards came in and separated the two, pulled them away kicking and screaming.
I examined myself. No blood. They didn't break the skin, but it looked like I might have a bruise or two. Oh well. That wasn't the part that scared me. The scary part came 20 minutes later when I was in the discipline office, writing up what had happened.
One of the girls was in there. A lot calmer. She looked at me. "Hi," she said. "What are you doing here?"
"What do you mean? I was trying to break up the fight you were just in," I said. "Didn't you see me?"
She looked at me blankly. "You were there?"
"Yes, and I've got scratch marks and bruises to prove it. You mean to tell me you don't remember me in between the two of you screaming your names and telling you to stop?"
I left, having learned a little humility. Since that day, I know that no matter how important I may think I am, there are times when I am totally invisible.