Sometimes a Smile is your best Weapon


Chris Kimble Art

Near the end of the middle school day around 20 years ago I saw two older  gang members entering the first floor hall from outside the building. Full colors out, scowling, sauntering fearlessly and slowly down the hall their whole demeanor daring someone to stop them. It was  just before the final dismissal bell and it  was my first year in an inner-city environment.  I didn’t know quite what to do but I knew that I had to do something.  As I turned to follow them another teacher solved the problem in a way that I would not necessarily have anticipated. Seeing them from his room he entered the hall and moved down the hall to get around in front of  them.  As he caught up with the two he turned sharply, stepping in front of them stopping them short as they nearly ran into him. Smiling broadly in a pleasant voice he asked them if he could “help them?” They recovered from the abrupt stop and looked down at him menacingly (I was thinking that both were at least 7 feet tall and 350 pounds) As he stood there standing in front of them and  smiling one of them eventually said they were, “lookin for someone.”    As I watched Max, the teacher standing in front of them, I remember thinking is he courageous,  very smart or a fool when he then said in a very friendly voice, “Great, I’ll help you find them, let’s go down to the office and I’ll make an announcement to find them.”  As he finished speaking he  grabbed at the larger ones elbow just as you might if you were helping a little old lady down some stairs, prepared to lead him towards the office. At this point as inexperienced as I was, I was sure that they were going to kill him and I was going to have to try and save him and then they would kill me too. But to my surprise the larger one shook off Max’s hand and they both turned silently and walked out the nearby door. Max, calm and unafraid, watched them go and smiled at me in a you’ll learn sort of way as he returned to his room and went about his business. Max had taught an inexperienced teacher a lesson that perhaps all those football coaches were right, maybe a teacher’s best defense is a “good offense delivered with a smile.”

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About safrisri

I have been a teacher since 1971 and have taught at all educational levels from pre-school to college. My college degree is general science which I arrived at after 5 years and 5 different majors. A degree as it turns out, almost as valuable and in demand as one in Neo-Bulgarian Mythology. I have been around education for around 40 years and can remember when teaching was a pleasant, happy and creative job and our schools were the same. My writings will reflect on my past mistakes and successes and what my students have taught me about education.
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