Something inside of me snapped that day. It was a moment right out of the movies. It was in the late 80’s, I was 31 years old. I had my first teaching job in the public-school system. I was teaching drama to junior high school kids in a lower middle-class hispanic neighborhood in Miami, Florida.
It was going okay except for my last class period of the day from 3 to 4 pm. This class was filled with the most delinquent adolescents in the school. 8th and 9th graders at the height of puberty in their most rebellious and ornery of hormonal-ism. They arrived to class late, no books, blatantly dis-respectful to me and each other.
It was right out of the movies, the ones where the teacher would quietly go home in tears every night. Each Sunday I couldn’t wait to look in the classified section of the paper for another job.
Even the assistant principal walked by my class one day, pulled me aside and remarked,
“You have the all the worst kids in the school in your class!”
I vehemently responded, “Yes, but don’t just tell me what I already know, DO something about it!”
Then one day everything changed. Being new to the public school system, I was exposed to every cough, cold and germ floating around. My immune system hadn’t yet caught up to speed, so after about 6 weeks of work, I came down with a flu and missed work on a Thursday. When I returned on Friday, the permanent substitute teacher sought me out immediately.
“Miss Fine, in my nine years of substitute teaching I have never had a class as bad as yours was yesterday. They were running up and down the halls, throwing books out the window at the kids in the gym class outside, yelling and screaming. They were utter hooligans.”
I was beside myself. I couldn’t afford to quit my job. I knew if I didn’t do something drastic, they would make my life hell for the rest of the year. But WHAT to do?!
I spent my lunch period in the teachers staff room that day asking every seasoned teacher for advice.
The gym teacher advised, “Just grab him by the scruff of the neck and throw him against the locker.”