Eyre Affairs

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Location: New York, United States

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Ay, dead as the stones on which her brains and blood were scattered..." ~ Jane Eyre

Blood was all over the hallway outside my classroom this morning just after the bell to end second period rang.

Physical fights are becoming weekly occurrences here at the high school where I teach, though this was the first time one had gotten so severely bloody, as the two students spat blood in each other's faces during the brawl. I cannot give any credit to the administrators or monitors - it took too long for it to be broken up, and so many people were oblivious to the blood; I saw students stepping in it. It was I who screamed, into the face of one administrator, that she had better get someone to clean the biohazard that was in small pools all over various sections of the hallway's floor.

All of my students were late to my class; these are my juniors who have a statewide English lit test to pass in less than two weeks. They came in completely absorbed in the fight. I expressed to them that they are civilized students who are taking a test on literature in two weeks and must focus. They did, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Of course their concentration was broken by all of the commotion that still ensued out in the hallway between cleaning up and such. How does anyone expect me to do my job? I really wonder sometimes. I am tired of my own kind of fighting. I did today and pulled them all back in, but it is exhausting.

What is also exhausting is the continual emotional roller coaster when it comes to the wars going on outside this building as well. There is no escaping bloodshed, as the president is going to address the nation this evening about the war in Iraq. Whilst I loathe Pelosi for dare mentioning cutting funds to the troops, I loathe Bush for sending more in. Bloodshed begets bloodshed. I empathize with all those who love the 20,000 being sent in; there is no chance they are all coming home alive.

And so yesterday and today I read paper after paper from my honors class which are severely cruel in judgment against Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises. Granted, this character is the antithesis of many a Victorian heroine. However, Hemingway is clear to state the reason why her promiscuous sexuality becomes a defense mechanism, a route of escapism, and a way to avoid emotional intimacy: she loses her true love when he is killed in WWI. My students don't think that is an excuse for her to behave irrationally and say she needs to get over it; my students do not have one drop of empathy for Brett.

I am sure that if the two boys fighting today were more empathetic individuals, there would have been no bloodshed at my doorway this morning...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand violence of any kind. This says a lot about my complete innocence in this world, but, there you have it. After all, even Jesus got angry and overturned tables. And let's not start with the God of the Old Testament. I mention God because He's my reason for being such a pacifist, generally. That, and something in my head that is genuinely afraid, to the point of getting physically sick about it, when I even think of violence. There were fights at the school where I taught; one right in my classroom. I nearly had a nervous breakdown. Seriously. Thoughts are with you, sending peaceful vibes your way.

6:21 PM  
Blogger work in progress said...

I can relate to your morning. Though there was no bloodshed outside of my door, I read the headline about oil drilling in Alaska and felt instantly nauseated. My heart stopped and I moaned an audible "Oh no". Some days it's hard to believe that human kind will ever make it, isn't it?

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nasty business. It happens here too, and this is between supposed academic geniuses.

As to Bush's speech, I heard it this morning and I heard what the anti-war lobby's analysis of the justification Bush made for sending 20,000 more troops in came out like, and it just made me wonder where the hell the John Wilkes Booths and Lee Harvey Oswalds of this world are when you need 'em the most (sorry that's not exactly the most pacifist view in the world but gah, the guy is a waste of skin and good air).

Here's looking forward to a utopian world where nothing's solved with a fist in the face.


4:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Thursday,
That is horrible. It makes you feel so powerless to see the way the students treat each other, and not being able to do anything. I am lucky that I teach in a very small, pretty safe school. But most violence starts with worts and bullying, and that is something I see everyday. I feel terribly guilty if I see that a child is not part of a group, and there is nothing I can do to really help. Take a deep breath and try to relax a bit over a cup of hot chocolate. Be proud of how you picked up after the fight and forced the children to be civilized again. They'll remember that as a positive thing.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Ryane said...

Thursday: I have so much respect and wonder for teachers these days. Honestly, I don't know how you do it--fighting, blood???...at school. Sigh...it depresses me. I realize that the world is NOT a perfect place, and that things change, but why are children/young adults so mad? What are they soo mad, angry and violent about that beating another person until they bleed is justified?

I agree w/Frum...redirecting your kids back to school, and learning and being RESPONSIBLE for themselves and their lives is the best thing you can do for them. (Even though I am sure that is Not an easy task.) I'll bet quite a few of them are empathetic..but at that age...it doesn't always show in quite the same way, does it?
Your behaviour, your own empathy and commitment to those kids will have just as much of an impact on their lives (and in fact, I say more) than the fight itself.

Way to go. That took a lot of courage.

8:20 AM  
Anonymous www.mymixedcompany.com said...

So at what point do you throw in the towel?

12:14 PM  
Blogger ThursdayNext said...

Marty ~ Its hard; I teach "Lord of the Flies" and do wonder how much is inane; its just that society as a whole does not teach our children well.

WIP ~ Indeed, sometimes it is hard to believe. But we have made it thus far, and as tired as we get, myself included, we always have to fight the good fight.

Peej ~ Isn't it awful that I want to punch Bush in the face? Sigh...

Frumteacher ~ Thank you for your words of wisdom and support. You are right: it does stem from the bullying.

Ryane ~ Thankfully my bunch of students this year are all great young human beings who give me hope. It frustrates me that these are their hallways...

MixedCompany ~ Soon. Probably soon.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Percival said...

School environments sure can be different. I spent 23 years almost all in the public elementary schools.

While that makes comparisons problematic in some ways, I did notice some big differences in overall discipline from one school to another based mainly, I think, on the tone set by the principal.

My last "gig" before becoming too disabled to work three years ago was at an elementary school in Arlington, VA. The principal at Patrick Henry at that time was great - warm and approachable, but at the same time had high standards/expectations of both staff and students that really made a difference. This wasn't an inner city school, but it did have a high percentage of low income families.

It was an unusual district in my experience because overall, Arlington is well off; but there's a big economic disparity between north and south Arlington. My school was in the not so prosperous part, so it was nice to have large resources available to a lot of kids who could really be helped by them.

The salary was nice too! If I'd known there could be such huge differences in public school salaries I would have wanted to move to Arlington early in my career and retired early. My salary nearly literally doubled when I moved there from a typical district in New Hampshire.

Vixen! Thou hast led me to break character... Yet not for long!

5:07 PM  
Blogger ThoughtsGalore said...

I, too, do not understand. We were watching the speech last night. When B said there would be 5 Brigades in Baghdad my Hubby's mouth dropped, tivo was paused, and an entire monologue was given on how big a brigade was.

He told me to imagine that ALL the marines at Camp Pendleton were packed up and deployed to the the streets of Baghdad. The entire base of Camp Pendleton (HUGE BASE.) I can't even fathom what's going to happen.

I'm sorry for the fights and bloody surroundings. It's just sad that fighting and blood is the only way some kids can figure out problems. I don't get it...

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...that's incredible (and not in a good way). I'm already figuring out how hard it can be to grab and hold the kids' attention, but after something like that? You are my hero.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear lady jane,
fights and bloodshed..sigh...
and then having to muster up the calmness and patience to redirect your students like that. you are truly to be commended.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Amy said, that's the toughie - getting kids to re-focus after something like that has happened out in the corridor.

I've got massive admiration for anyone who teaches full stop - and I've always taken the easy way out with teaching and taught adults or late teens at College or University. They are either paying to be there or are there to learn something specific, so that makes my job a lot easier.

Kudos to you though Thurs, well you already know I think you're ace, but in this instance you did the most fantastic job.

As for feeling guilty about wanting to punch Bush in the face, don't worry - if anyone ever shouts "form a line" I doubt there's a land-mass on the planet big enough to hold the queue.


4:21 AM  
Anonymous shopper said...

Blood in the hallway is never good. Kids are different now, as well as the parents. (Which is probably why the kids are different!) It's a tough job.

12:54 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

Fighting and violence in schools is not new. It's been going on a long time. There were fights all the time in my public schools growing up. Throughout history people think they can get what they want through intimidation and violence. The sad part is that frequently it works, and it hard to know how to respond to violence. Should the bullied fight back against the bully? And what can a teacher do?

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you recover from last weeks events?

12:34 PM  

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