Daily Archives: February 15, 2012

the girls’ plan

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 .

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