Friday, March 11, 2016


12:30. Middle school lunch duty.
The sixth graders are exiting the cafeteria, the eighth graders are in line.
I am saying something to one of the sixth graders, when I hear those words most middle school teachers dread.
"Fight! Fight! Fight!"
The noise is coming from behind me, in the eighth grade line.
I fly across the cafeteria, shouting, "Stop!" in the general direction of the fight.
My eyes take in the scene.
It is the eighth grade boys, soccer players, good friends.
K, a kid I know well, and C, who is new to our school this year.
He has hung out with me one day a couple of weeks ago-- helped me carry boxes, stamp books.
He has a great sense of humor and I like him a lot.
I don't think twice before stepping between them.
"Stop!" I shout. "Stop right now!"
I step towards K and he drops back a step.
"Stop it!" I say again.
"What's going on?"
G, the one of the eighth grade spokespeople, steps in.
"Miss, they're kidding. They're just kidding."
"Seriously?" I say.
My heart is pounding. The adrenalin is pumping.
"Yeah. C stepped on the back of K's shoe. He just got 'em yesterday."
"He had like $5 Payless' shoes. And the new ones are Vans. C stepped on 'em."
By then, one of the sixth grade teachers, had reached us.
"These guys need to go upstairs," he said, herding them toward the office.
A few minutes later, the boys were back.
"We were just kidding, miss, we're really sorry. We won't do it again."
I feel compelled to give a quick speech on the Freedom of Speech, and how it is not appropriate to yell "Fire" in a movie theater, or "Fight" in a school cafeteria. Especially not when an old lady in clogs is in charge.
The boys are contrite, at least a little.
"How old are you miss?" says C. "You run pretty fast."

After school I am outside, herding kids onto Boys' and Girls' Club bus, when I hear my name.
It is C, standing in a large crowd of kids.
Some are the soccer guys from lunchtime.
Several are kids I don't know- maybe freshmen from the feeder high school.
C wants me to meet them.
"This is Miss Wilcox," he says to his friend.
Don't mess with her.
She's tough."
I make a fist and laugh.
Just another day in middle school.


Unknown said...

Oh, yes this post brings back the days of middle school teaching. I can feel the adrenaline now. You deserve a rest this weekend.

Keith said...

Carol, the tension you wove through your words had my heart beating too! I was right there with you from high drama to one big exhale. Great slice!

Karen said...

Wow, quite the exciting lunch duty! I am always amazed at what gains us respect with students. Who knew it would be your clog-running, stepping-into-a-fight skills! ;)

Michelle Li said...

You're a badass, Carol. I taught middle school for 4 years before moving on to high school teaching. It made a teacher out of me.