I got complaints from time to time about the boys in the class . Robert did this or Jose did that . Miguel stuck out his tongue at me again . Juan pushed his desk into mine .
They were wonderful kids , in general . There were no bullies in the class . But kids tease other kids and boys love to tease girls in fourth grade . I did what I could to stop it . Once in awhile I meted out small punishments to one or another of them to control the situation . I brought up the issue with parents.
Girls would tease boys , too , of course , but they were more subtle about it . I wouldn’t notice their little mocking gestures , their whispered insults . Instead , I’d catch the boy’s response when he’d angrily push his desk into hers , stick out his tongue , put a dead bug on her desk , or say some rude insult to her amid his frustration .
During one week in March the level of teasing seemed to have escalated . I was fielding more complaints from girls than usual . The boys had learned from the girls , I think , and were more subtle with their teasing . Much of it went on , I knew , during those few seconds when I was turned away from the class and I writing something on the board . My back was turned and it was their signal to play . There was a whole parallel universe that co-existed with my world during those few seconds when my back was turned . That was the time some of the students really came alive . By the time I turned around again toward them they would have already settled back into their seats , relaxed their facial muscles , and be again be pretending to concentrate on the decimals and fractions on the board .
Now , who can tell me which number is the denominator ?
I was determined to catch someone in the act . I kept my board writing to a minimum . I turned back toward the students more quickly . I was in a contest with their parallel universe but I was losing . Everyone in the room knew I was losing . I couldn’t catch anyone doing anything except looking at me with those practiced facial expressions meant to indicate attention and interest in denominators and numerators and all the interesting things I had been telling them about fractions and decimals .
Sometime , during the morning lesson , I was jotting something important on the board and I heard a huge noise , a huge thumping noise . I turned immediately . Now I would catch the culprit .
What I saw was this :
Every girl in the room was calmly putting a history book , their heaviest textbook , away under the desk . Their faces gave no clue as to what had just happened . Every boy was rubbing the top of his head in obvious pain . The attack had been precisely timed . I had my back turned for only a few seconds and they struck .
The traumatized boys whined and complained . They wanted me to retaliate against the girls . The satisfied girls all sat quietly with blank expressions on their faces . I told the boys that I hadn’t seen anything .
For several weeks after that the boys left the girls alone .