Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sexy yogis should not be breaking up fights

Sexy yogis should not be breaking up fights in the hallways or forging alliances with gang leaders to keep the peace at work.  Seriously, I’m 48 approaching 5-0, dripping wet a whopping 120 pounds, and I run head first into throngs of really pissed off towers  of testosterone who can bench press me with ease.  Yes, I teach at an alternative school.    6…7…8 combatants?  It doesn’t matter as the art of street fighting among teen boys remains surprisingly formulaic.
Stage 1:  posturing
“Yo, you’re going down”
“Yeah right, asshole”
As the verbal insults escalate I listen for the key words:  fuck and “your momma”.
Once I hear them shouted, I take off my earrings, turn my ring around and remove the ID secured around my neck by a lanyard.  If I make the wrong decision, I don’t want anything around my neck that can be tightened.
Stage 2:  count to 8
Eight punches typically comprise round one of a school fight before the combatants take their first breaths.  I stand back and watch, counting until 8 blows have been thrown.  If I step in too early, I will be hurt and so will they.

Stage 3:  my strike
As they draw back for punch 9 I move in, my stronger shoulder nudging the weaker boy  one step out of the action while I extend my left  arm and shove the stronger boy back stumbling to throw him off balance, yet not hard enough to knock him to the ground.

Stage 4:  diffusion

“Look, it’s Santa!” I scream at the top of my lungs, over the loud roar of the on-lookers.

“What the hell, Ms. Stahle?” as the crowd and fighters freeze in a state of utter confusion.  Usually a low chuckle rolls through the crowd, one boy steps further back, so does the other.  They have their escape as the attention falls on me and not them.  Faces and egos saved.  No one loses; or wins.
“Look what you’ve ding dongs have done to me?  I’m sweating, my shirt’s untucked.  Gentlemen, you cannot make a fashion diva like me such a fashion nightmare.  You guys are the reason I’m still single!  Now get your asses back to class and you 2 swingers follow me.”

Diffusion via humor and relationships.  Always leveraging my relationships with students who learn to trust and respect me, even when I have to show a tougher side as the mother figure many of my students lack.  I also model day in and day out that it is ok to laugh at yourself, to not take life so seriously and to treat one another with love and respect.
Stage 5:  quality time
“Come on you 2, I’ve got some furniture to move and I appreciate your generous offers to do it for me while I calm down after your little Broadway production.”
“You realize that is verbal irony?  At least get that question right on the state tests so that we can still count today as productive.”  We exit as a group stage right with me in the middle, walking quickly.  No encores so we hustle out of sight and out of mind.  Fight’s over.

It’s all about those relationships.  In a matter of 5 minutes what entered my school from the street turns into calm discussion time with the fighters.   Yes, there are consequences for fighting in school but there are also life lessons and they come first.  That’s why this middle aged yogi attempts such stupid acts of faux-courage.  I’m nothing but a vial of adrenaline when fight days happen and I have to intervene; there’s no courage just firm resolution to keep my students safe.  These boys won’t hit me as I’m typically one of the few adults who show genuine care and concern for their well-being.  I expect more from them and my first rule of school is that I do not lower my expectations regardless, you as my student, need to raise yours.  And each year they do.  I protect these troubled youth from 7:30-3:00 every day for 180 days each year.  During that time, I remold, reshape and resolve the abuses from a life on the street doing the unthinkable and usually illegal.    They enter my school from the streets but hopefully leave me as  gentlemen scholars with a desire to achieve more.
Cheryl Stahle

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