Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Friday was Fight Day
at my Philly School.
"Rebar in Black and White." By John P. Murphy
A day of rematches, a clearing of accounts. And something to talk about
for the weekend. Twas a show of violence
and a display of fearlessness,
(which comes highly valued
in the inner city). And you didn't have to be big or strong or a boy or a girl. You just had to be fearless. And go nuckin' futs.
At 5th and Indiana
there were no windows
in my classroom above the boiler
at Potter Thomas Middle School.
The first time a student shut off the lights
the sudden complete darkness
unchained a fear inside me
as textbooks and screams and shouts
started flying everywhere.
Shrapnel in pens and notebooks snatched
from a neighbor's desk flew and hit the floor.
I crouched all through the hollering
to get to the lights by the door.
I stood next to the switch after that
but it happened again and again.
I had student helpers
(people also not interested
in the dark violent chaos).
They got to the switch too.
The play fights were the worst for a while.
The kids would say, "We were just playin'."
But a high percentage of play fights would turn real.
At the beginning of class.
In the Middle.
And at the end.
I walked with a veteran teacher on Lunch Duty.
Play fights would break up from a distance when he was around.
He told me he leads with the knee or the elbow
when breaking up fights.
The only time a teacher may lay hands on a student
is when breaking up a fight.
The next morning I stood in the play ground lining up for the day.
"Good morning Malik."
"Get the fuck outta my face you bald headed faggot."
(He was affectionate in his own way.)
"Malik, you're going to hurt my feelings one a these days," I said.
He never did.
The ones who are hardest to love need it the most.