Today I saw something that I had never really seen before. I saw two students, one is mine the other not, get into a major fight in the cafeteria. I heard the fight before I saw it, the sound of trays flipping over, chairs knocking back, and yells. The cafeteria erupted with other students screams, some panicked some enjoying. I turned to see my student get punched hard in the face and go down. The boy who hit him had a hard cast on his arm. Immediately I run over along with principals and other teachers in the cafeteria. They were pulled apart quickly and it was over. The one boy taken to the office and my student face down on the floor screaming in pain. Very brutal.
My job is now to calm and remove students. I jump into getting kids to back up and sit down. We open up the outside and start sending students out. I am mix of wanting to run away from this and wanting to help. It is my job and I do it. All other students are removed but a few. Now I am a counselor trying to talk another boy down from retaliation. I can see it in his face. He is pacing, not wanting to leave his fallen friend. I don’t know this student, or at least I didn’t until today. He had no reason to listen to me, but I managed to get him to look at me. I stayed with him step by step and allowed him to pace but didn’t give him too much room. I kept talking, kept him breathing, kept him under control. The cafeteria is calm now except for the boy still screaming on the floor in pain and the one trying to get himself under control.
Finally the medics show up and when my student, the one on the floor finally allows someone to turn him over, it is not pretty. His nose is clearly broken, his eyes are swollen and red. His face is covered in blood and he’s screams are piercing. His friend tenses and I hold his arm. He turns away and I get his shoulders and stare him in the eyes until his moment passes. He breaks and cries. I look away giving him his moment and he puts his head on my shoulder. He is not a hard man from the streets, he is a 13 year old boy who’s best friend is hurt. He is hurting for his friend. We don’t say a word. I let him relax. He picks his head up. Looks at me and we both nod. I walk him out of the cafeteria keeping him from seeing what they are doing to his friend, trying my best not to look as well. Together we walk to the front office and to the counselors. I ask for someone to call his parents and sit with him until the bell for me to go back to teaching rings. I make sure he is fine and I walk away.
I still have other students that need to be taught, but as they enter the room all any of them want to talk about is the fight that just happened. They why’s and how’s of something that should never have happened. And they are laughing and joking around because they are so desensitized to violence that it’s nothing to them. I managed through the rest of my day. I taught the lessons I had planed. I managed to smile and act normal without feeling normal at all.
I know I will never talk about what happened with that student today. I don’t expect he will ever mention it, but I know that he is changed today. A part of his innocence is gone. I don’t know if it is over. I can’t promise retaliation won’t happen. I pray that it won’t but there’s no telling. Working in a middle school is rough. The kids are so all over the place emotionally. I love them all and want the best for each of them. Today was a hard day. There will be other hard days. But there are so many wonderful days too. I need to be reminded of that tonight as I lay here thinking about all that has happened. I need to figure out how to get the image out of my head.
Just another day at the job. Not really.