The teacher was over six feet tall. He walked around with a scowl on his face and was always angry with everyone. One year he was assigned a classroom down the hall from me. By then I knew him well. Suffice it to say I was not one of his favorite ethnic groups. It didn’t bother me, but that dislike included the majority of the students that made up our middle school.
His hate targeted the young men who looked and acted like street gangsters. Most of those kids were just that – kids. Some did have more street smarts than they had school smarts, but their attitude almost always was a front to cover their inability to do the class work and the homework.
He picked on those boys in the privacy of his classroom, but when they fought back and sassed him, it spilled out into the hallway. The teacher would yell close to their faces, goading them to hit him. Once they took a jab at him the teacher then had a “legal right to defend himself.” His anger toward these boys was so intense he relished getting them into trouble. Most of the boys would walk (or run) away and turn themselves into the principal’s office; a few would throw a jab and the man (twice, sometimes three times their size) would then hit them in return. The boy would get expelled for assaulting a teacher when the administration, the faculty, and the students knew that the teacher was to blame.
I have never understood why people go into professions or jobs where they hate the client or the customer. I have known doctors who do not like their patients. I have witnessed many a salesclerk with an attitude. This man hated kids, so why was he “teaching?”
Though we closed our doors during class time, we could hear the teacher berating someone every day out in the hallway.
It got really bad one day. The man was out of hand. He was yelling obscenities and racial slurs at a young man. No one could teach over the fracas, and I knew what was going to happen next, so I walked toward the classroom door and started outside.
My students, all Latinos themselves, begged me not to go outside. “Don’t go, Miss. Don’t go. He’ll hurt you too.”
I smiled at them and told them that if he did, they were to go get the nurse. Pronto.
I stepped out into the hall and in my best teacher voice, I yelled, “Mr. X, do you need help? Should I send for the principal?”
He snarled something sotto voce at me but I repeated my offer again. Other doors opened and other teachers came out. With so many witnesses, the bully backed off the skinny young teen.
I turned to my classroom and yelled for one boy to go chop-chop and get the principal. I clapped my hands at him to go fast. One of my own lovable thugs took off in a sprint. I yelled down the hallway to Mr. X that help was on the way.
Within minutes, the student and a vice-principal returned; both were running. The boy was escorted to the office, and the mean old bully snarled at me and went back into his classroom.
From then on, I made it a habit to step outside every time the teacher yelled at a student. He hated me more than ever but I didn’t care. I thanked the teachers who had come to my rescue and knowing it would happen again, asked them to continue backing me. The man was twice my size, and did I mention, he hated me? When I asked the principal and vice-principal why they allowed that man to bully his students like that, they gave me some spineless answer.
In the years that followed, while I still worked on that campus, we never taught in the same hallway again. I was told “he calmed down a little.” I have no idea why, but maybe he knew that too many of us were on to him. He might bully the kids and the administration, but some of us (like the kids who took a jab at him) weren’t afraid to try and stand up to him.