The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Monday, February 07, 2005

Friday afternoon, an intruder wandered into my Media class of fifteen year olds, who all suddenly took on a much younger appearance than usual, in contrast to a surly and obstinate stranger who refused to leave.

Thinking back to various news stories, I listened to instinct, reasoning that if I didn't know him, and they didn't know him, he could easily be armed, and what kind of adult starts wandering around children's classrooms on a Friday afternoon anyway? I challenged him, and demanded he leave the room.

To which he replied with the loudly stated intention to 'f*** up yo face' and began trying to physically intimidate me.

I'm still a little outraged at the casualness, the automatic insouciance of my response.

It'd been a hard week, I'd met every damn deadline, I'd dealt with every damn fight, I'd been inspected twice, and have three more inspections to endure next week; I was the only person with any seniority on the whole floor, and as nobody teaches English on Friday afternoons, possibly the only adult in the department at that moment.
I became angry, really angry, that this dweeb thought he could intimidate me.

Like a fool, I taunted him, laughed in his face, said "oooh, you've so scared me." Touched his arm repeatedly until he moved away.

Blustering, he pretended to be a sixth former (outright lie: I've taught all the sixth formers at my school, and none of them have beards, or look nineteen), then segued into angry retaliation, shouting that I had "no right" to touch him.
I pointed out that as an intruder in the room, I had every right to touch him as much as I liked, until he actually left.

He decided an appropriate response was to grab and shove me backwards away from him.
Still, it didn't serve as sufficient warning to cool my ardour. I recall thinking, bizarrely, "as if that doesn't happen in any normal week at school here."

This anonymous thug somehow triggered my instantaneous madness response - who in the world is so pathetic that they have to while away their day by threatening to facially scar a skinny woman in front of a class full of children?

He didn't appreciate my continuing lecture. As he pushed me back again, I noticed the grubby bandage on his arm, the old scar on his neck above a heavy gold necklace.

The presence of twenty wide eyed witnesses - including, luckily, five or six exceptionally pretty teenaged girls - eventually cowed him, as his righteous indignation began to seem increasingly thin before an unhelpful audience. He retreated to the door, stood there to rail about what dire vengeance he would wreak upon me, how he was going to cut me and hurt me, and "f*** up" my face.

I didn't feel scared - stupidly - for one minute. As he mooched off down the corridor at the afternoon bell, I wandered over to the sixth form offices, checked every photograph - reassured by the familiarity and wide eyed youth of the pictures, then scooted off to check the building's CCTV.
It began, finally, to occur to me that a stranger could quite easily make good upon those threats. Don't be a Philip Lawrence.

The CCTV footage shown me revealed that there were two intruders, wandering about the school to scrawl local gang 'tags' upon any quiet corridor walls while waiting for teenaged girls to chat up. The deputy head who pieced this together couldn't identify my asasilant, but did pinpoint the other intruder, who seemed less combative.

He was recognised as an ex-student of the school, fifteen and fresh out of an institution, and a member of the local 'Cats' gang. "They're bad news", Dick announced to the crowd of idle CCTV scrutineers forming around the bank of screens. "Local pussies, more like."
"Yeah?" interjected Mike, the newest deputy head. "You're going to say that to their faces, are you?"
Dick paled a little. Suddenly I noticed the wrinkles around his eyes, the thinning hair, the way he'd sat heavily instead of standing to view the tapes. "Err ... no."

Everyone in the room looked a little older, a little less the staunch authority figure. A little more vulnerable.