The boy in the hall

I did teach in the public schools for one year to discover that I was not suited for that grade level. I taught at the junior high and the senior high schools. I did not have a school and I did not have a classroom to call my own, and I felt very disorganized for the entire year. I also found that most of my students could care less whether the sentence had a dangling modifier or not, whether the subject agreed with the verb or not, or whether the sentence was a complete sentence or not.  After a year I needed more — students who, at least, appeared to care to learn.

I will say, though, that most of those memories come from the junior high level. By the time the students reached high school (second semester), the students who either had no clue what was going on in the classroom or the students who had no desire to be there had dropped out. So, the high school was a much better place (for me). I tip my hat to any person who teaches at the junior high level. Give me elementary, secondary and college levels any day, and I will leave the junior high level to the brave souls who tread those grounds.

There are so many factors at play at the junior high level. It is that in-between stage where the students are not children any longer and they are not young adults either. I believe it is called puberty, and if anyone can remember those years, they are tough. Besides fitting in at school, there are parents and family members to figure out, and a myriad of obstacles to work one’s way through.

It was one of those obstacles that I remember so well. At the beginning of the class hour, teachers were to stand in the hall and watch the students as they passed from class to class. Usually, I was passing in the hall alongside the students, and it was there that I saw the incidence. There was one young man who was ready to fight another. I saw the beginning of the incident (books thrown to the floor) and intercepted before the situation escalated. I asked the young man who was ready to fight what the problem was. His answer was, “I didn’t like the way he looked at me.”

I said, “Whoa. How was he looking at you?”

“Like he was mad at me. I figured I’d punch him before he punched me.”

The other boy had already left the scene and went to class. I told the young man (who was also my student), “Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t mad at you. Maybe he just had a fight with his mom or dad and he was thinking about that, or maybe he was hungry, or maybe he was mad at himself for something he did or did not do. Or, maybe it’s just the way he looks. In any case, maybe it wasn’t about you at all. Maybe it was about him.”

We went into the classroom together, and throughout the day I listened to hear rumor of fights. There were none, but that instance always stuck in my memory bank. How many times do we jump to conclusions by the way someone looks, or looks at us, or uses a tone of voice we don’t like, or says words that we don’t fully understand, or says words we misunderstand? Immediately, we pass judgment and decide that we don’t like that person based on an action, a look or a word.

Do you have stories about being misunderstood or have you witnessed what happens when two people misunderstand a situation or instance? I’d love to hear those stories.





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