Monday, November 9, 2009
A Roomful of Heroes
This is my partner, Laura. She is a retired Fire Captain, and her retirement job is teacing Freshman English at a community college. One of her classes is made up of students of mixed ages and backgrounds, including a special forces soldier returning to civilian life after serving in Iraq, a young man who is technically still in high school but allowed to take a college English course at the school (I don't know why), a young man who had worked as an actor at Disney for a long time, and twenty or so assorted others.
It's a mixed and interesting group and they do their work, and participate freely in class discussions. Friday, Laura handed out their weekend reading and writing assignment, and the high schooler hissed "Damn F***ing Jew!" under his breath.
He had the good fortune to be seated just behind the special forces guy, who was up and on him faster than he could get the last syllable out. Laura asked what the problem was and the young man said "nothing." The special forces guy was not having it and told him to tell the class what he had said, or else. He still refused, so the soldier told them. Everyone was horrified. Laura sent him directly to the dean and if things had gone according to school policy and rules, that would have ended his career at the school.
However, the department head was away and did not hear what had happened, and the young man apparently told the dean a very different story. Whatever ensued, and we really don't know, he was back at school today (Monday).
The other students had seen him and warned Laura. The students got together in the cafeteria and planned something, unbeknownst to her. She went into the classroom, and just before the class began, at the last possible second, the student sauntered in. The other students were waiting for him. The Disney kid had choreographed the whole thing. As the anti-semitic student took a seat in the center of the classroom, the Disney guy moved his desk immediately in front of him. On cue, the entire class surrounded him with their desks in a tight circle, protecting their teacher.
That student learned a very important lesson today. Educated people do not support hate.
When Laura told me what they did today, it made me cry. It does as I write it.
It makes me sad that the school did nothing about the kid's original behavior. I hope that will change. Teachers need support in the classroom. I would think that young man has no business in a college setting until he grows up quite a bit.
Sometimes people are total jerks, and sometimes they are absolutely amazing. And sometimes there is a whole room full of heroes.
photo credit: MAJ