There’s no poetic or witty way to put it, so let me lay it straight: Thursday I was assaulted by a student, and shipped by ambulance to the Maimonides hospital.
It happened near the end of the day on Thursday; one of my students, Ron, was pulling out and showing off his Razor cell phone and I offered the following warning:
“Cell phones are not allowed on school property, if I see it again, I’ll let security know, and they will take it.”
And I figured that would be the end of the disturbance. Until Mark. I may have mentioned Mark before, the 17-year-old 9th grader whose technically supposed to be in 8th grade because he never passed the 8th grade reading tests. I never was able to assess his reading skills because the student refused to cooperate or do any work, it is my speculation that the student could barely read and lived in shame. Long story short, Mark was a very angry young man and I had written a dozen anecdotals on him because I found him to be a danger to other students, teachers, and myself. The Tuesday prior he pulled the hair of a visiting teacher, for no reason other than she asked him to complete an assignment.
Back to the story: Mark asked Ron to see his phone after I told Ron to put it away. My action was to walk over to the classroom phone and dial security. Mark hopped up out of his seat and vaulted to the phone, first hanging up, and then disconnecting the line. I struggled to hold on to the phone and the student shoved me down. Hard. I was knocked down head first, and my glasses flew across the room. Holy Mother of God, I saw stars.
My initial reaction, and the one that stuck with me the longest was shock. Even after my Paraprofessional, Ms. W, helped me to my feet and ushered me into the main office I was turning the situation over in my brain, and hoping that the other students wouldn’t get too out of hand while I was gone.
I received a lump on my head the size of a Cadbury egg, and I broke down in the principal’s office. Out of pain, out of anger, and out of failure. The principal was very sympathetic about the whole ordeal, which I appreciated greatly.
Here’s where the situation gets sticky, and I learned a big lesson about administration and who my friends are in the school. I arrived back to my classroom after school was dismissed, and the first and ONLY person to mention my post-assault options was my Para who said I should press charges. Especially since I had asked to have this student removed prior to the incident. I had spoken to two teachers, the principal, the assistant principal and the school nurse…and no one had mention either that I could press charges, or that I could take “line of duty” days off. And when I began to make a little noise about those options the sympathy on people’s faces began to drain away.
If I didn’t see a doctor that same night and tried to press charges it would instantly get downplayed from assault to harassment; so I made plans to see a doctor. Insult to injury (Haha! Witty!) I had only had health insurance for a few weeks, so I had yet to register for a doctor, and HIP told me I wouldn’t be able to see a physician until the next day. No good. This is where the ambulance came in, being the only way I’d get into the hospital is by way of the emergency room. Yes, I felt a little silly, riding in an ambulance for what ended up being a mild concussion. But the EMS folks were kind and the ride quick. The doctor visit went well, and swiftly, mild concussion, don’t drink or operate heavily machinery, come back if there is nausea or passing out…and I was discharged so I could wait for the police and make my statement.
Two hours later and no cops. My boyfriend had since shown up, frantic and worried, and we were waiting for the cops. Around 6:30PM a doctor came to the waiting room where we were…well…waiting, and told us we could be waiting for up to eight hours and recommended we called the cops from home and gave a report that way. Fine and good. We headed home by subway, and I was pretty shaky, my head was throbbing like a hangover.
From home I called the police and they arrived within minutes, my statement taken and the report filled out. I feel like I’ve told this story a hundred times, to my family, my friends, teachers, the police, doctors, EMS workers…and I doesn’t get any less fantastical.
Nothing got me ready for this, the Teaching Fellows program never brought it up. Some part of my arrogantly thought that it would never happen to me, that I’d be that caring teacher who reached all her students and somehow quelled their anger and anxiety. Now I know why the other teachers smiled at me and called me young. Ms. R, my teacher friend from the summer stood by me the whole time, and asked me why I didn’t hit him back. As it turns out, she was the union rep for the school, and missed her college class to wait for the ambulance with me. I am grateful for what allies I have.
Tomorrow I return, and I have no idea what to expect. How will my students see me now? How will they treat me? How should I act about the whole thing? They saw their teacher go down hard and eat dirt, ushered from the class in a fury and absent the next day. What ground might I have lost with them?