I may have blogged about this before or maybe I thought about it so long that I thought I blogged it. If it is a repeat, sorry. The war in Iraq and the fighting in Lebanon have made me think of other fights and what I learned from them. I thought I would share three fight stories and the lessons I learned. Understand that fighting (especially in public school) is unacceptable and is to be avoided, but it happens. I never actually got into any fights myself (my sister did, and that is a funny story – later). I remember my mother saying, "Ladies do not fight; never get into a fight, but if you do, you better win." I thought that was rather confusing at the time, but I eventually figured it out. After becoming a teacher, I broke up more than my share of fights. Those are the fights I will tell you about. The three years that I taught at Mission High School (a huge 5-A school) I never saw any fights, but I occasionally heard about a few. The principal ran a tight ship there. Punishment for fighting was sure and swift – no questions asked. The three years that I taught in Northern NM at rather small schools were a real eye-opener on fights. Punishment was a joke. That is one lesson learned right there.
Fight No. 1: I taught a remedial English class with about eight boys in the class. They were all buddies and it was a great class. One day Gary Barela, whom I often called Gary Gorilla because of his size, went over to Little Archuleta’s desk (can’t remember his first name, but he was a small kid) and began giving him the "what for" – chewing him out royally. Because they were good friends, I did not think much about it at first, but I did have a "stay in your seat" rule. About the second time I told Gary to set down and before I could walk to where they were, Little Archuleta came up out of his desk and hit Gary square on the nose with such force that Gary went over backwards. Desks went flying, blood went spraying - end of fight. The other boys in the class quickly grabbed the two fighters – not that Gary could see to fight anymore, but they were separated. I sent Gary to clean up and head to the office. As I walked Archuleta to the office and we all calmed down somewhat, I asked, "What were you thinking!?" Little Archuleta said, "Mrs. B, Gary is a big guy. I thought if he was going to fight, I better get the first punch in. So I hit him hard." I did not say it to Archuleta, but I thought, "You know, that was probably a wise decision."
Fight No.2: Juan Gonzales was one of my all-time favorite students. He was a good-looking athlete with an easy-going, gentle personality. Whenever I am in Questa, I still stop at the Gonzales gas station to get hugs from the Gonzales brothers. The Blanco brothers are a whole other story. They were serious bad boys known for trouble – and I mean trouble. I could tell you some stories on them, but just understand that they were to be avoided. They were bullies and a bit wacko. One day after soccer practice while Juan was waiting for his father to pick him up, Jeramy Blanco jumped on Juan and started a fight. Juan tried to avoid the fight, but his father showed up and made him fight with Blanco. At one point, Blanco was winning and Juan tried to get out of the fight again, but Mr. Gonzales threw his son back into the fight telling him to whip Blanco – finish the fight. Eventually, Juan whipped Blanco. It did not make Juan a fighter (he hated the whole thing), but the Gonzales brothers never had any problems with the Blanco brothers again (or anyone else for that matter). I think Mr. Gonzales was very wise.
Fight No.3: It was the beginning of the year at Taos Jr. High. My homeroom kids were at their lockers in the back of the classroom when a fight broke out between two 7th graders. One was a pesky, bully type boy, and the other was a sweet, pretty little blonde girl named Ariel. Ariel looked like a wildcat in the fight. She was all over the young man before he knew what was happening. I separated the two and sent them off to the office. The next day Ariel’s father came to see me. He was horrified that his sweet little girl had gotten into a fight with a boy. I am sure he thought I should have done more to prevent the fight. Instead, I told him, "Ariel did very well – you should have seen her – she was all over that kid. Sure, she got a busted lip, but that was his only punch, and it was a lucky one. She whipped him good!" The dad was now really horrified. So I continued, "This is jr. high. These kids are establishing themselves. That boy is a pest and a bully. He had been picking on Ariel for weeks. She finally got tired of it and did something about it. I know fighting is not okay, but she has made her reputation, and she will never have to fight again, because now everyone knows that she will fight and she will win. Now, you don’t have to worry about her anymore." Being a typical Taos hippie, he had his doubts on what I said, but Ariel had a great year and no more fights or problems.
I use to tell my students that fighting at school was for chickens because they knew someone would stop them – break them up quickly. Fighting at school was "all for show" – bullying. I learned that sometimes a bully needs to be taught a lesson. Sometimes a bully needs to be whipped. Sometimes a swift hard hit is just what it takes to surprise a bully – one that thinks everyone else will stop the fight before he gets hurt. Sometimes you need to let the fight go on until someone is whipped or too tired to fight anymore. Stopping the fight just eggs the bully on to fight another day. Once again, I do not condone fighting in school. Fighting in school is dangerous for everyone and has to be taken seriously. My point is that I learned some things about life from these fights. Terrorists are like bullies. It is time to do something about them – like a good whuppin’.