We're toeing the line of unbloggable territory here so let me preface by saying I think my school and district work diligently and successfully to cultivate a safe school. We've discussed this, my students and I. Kids like this school. Kids feel safe here.
But we had a fight last week, a fight which was remarkable for a few reasons, one which has nagged me since. Our administration ended it quickly. The whole altercation lasted less than fifteen seconds but within that hiccup one girl managed to land a bizarre set of blows. Far from the usual mêlée-style school fight — scratching, slapping, and clawing, all with the frantic awareness that it's gonna get broken up shortly — this girl seemed to know exactly what she was doing.
I know this even though I was 1,000 feet away minding my classroom.
I know this because I watched the fight seven times — five times on five different students' cameraphones, and twice on YouTube. Only one student caught it on his RAZR and it's well outside the realm of exaggeration to say that every student at my school has now seen the fight. I'd wager they all saw it within an hour. At a coffee shop later that night I heard kids from a different district discussing it. Within our limited universe, the fight has gone positively viral.
Also a matter of public record is today's stabbing and subsequent lock-down. I have no comment here except to say that confiscating cell phones — SOP during lock-down — proved an unconvincing sell for my students and that, via text messaging, they seemed better informed than I was on the events transpiring outside our locked and shuttered door. I acknowledge the likelihood that their gossipy electronic communiqués were largely inaccurate but that only intensifies my queasiness right now.
Clearly, there is a large and capable network at our school, at your school, one that exists entirely outside teacher control or influence, and it scares me. No teacher or administrator had any hand in making that fight the most attended event of the school year. They did that without us. I am the youngest on staff, one of the most technologically inclined, and I have no idea how to flip text-, picture-, and video-messaging over our shoulders onto some positive mat in front of us. Where does this leave us?
[Update: She stabbed herself. Every text message was wrong.]