Picking (and avoiding) your fights

Education Realist, a high school math teacher, took off a student’s hat as a joke. Before she could return it, he stood and shouted at her, “Give me my damn HAT back.” In Picking Your Fights—Or Not, she tells the story.

“Sit down, BTS. Right now.” I was standing very, very still. He edged even closer.

“Give me the damn hat. You don’t take my hat.”

. . . “BTS,” I said very carefully, very clearly. “I promise you I was just kidding around. You hadn’t done anything wrong. I was going to hand it back to you. And you will have the beanie back the minute you sit down. But you do not tell me what to do.”

He said, again, “Give me the damn HAT BACK. NOW.”

She didn’t want to give back the hat till he sat down. She didn’t want to call a supervisor, which would risk a charge of “physically threatening a teacher.” Furthermore it was partly her own fault for messing with his hat.

Then she heard her other students telling BTS to calm down. One girl said, “I got to tell you, BTS, that’s a damn ugly hat to be going face to face for.”

They weren’t mocking him, laughing at him, making fun of him for letting me take his beanie. They were, god love each and every one of them, fully cognizant of the thin line we were on, and determined to walk BTS back.

Sabi, a usually quiet Afghani, said “BTS, you should sit down and get your hat back.” Kyle said “It’s spring break, man. You want to lose a second of it to the (detention) hallway?”

BTS sat down. She gave him the hat back.

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  1. She should have given the hat back right away and apologized.

    • Pete…she handled it exactly right. She admitted it was a joke, told the kid he would get the hat back if he backed down, and then did so. She also kept the student from getting into trouble for disrespect and defiance. In my opinion, not only did she handle the incident exactly right, she provided the whole class with an example of how to solve a problem by descalating it.

      • Joke or not, she stole his hat and refused to give it back until he did something for it. She was completely in the wrong.

        • You, Pete, are clearly under the age of 18.

          • I am a 45 year old engineer working in Silicon Valley. I have 3 school age children and have spent 13 years volunteering with Special Olympics – and I recognize disrespect no matter where it originates. I have a memory from 6th grade when teachers forced “politeness” on us boys by requiring us to remove our hats indoors. This included girls assigned to rip off hats of boys just steps from the door, mind you that this was in the middle of winter in Michigan. I still resent those girls, and the student in this article will forever resent that teacher.

  2. Ewwwwww. If I had a teacher grab an article of my clothing and pull it off, I’d have the office mail the homeschool forms to my parents. What’s next, rummaging thru their lunch and taking what you want?

    As a parent, there’s no way I’d want my kid in with a teacher that wastes so much class time.

  3. Wait, he was wearing a hat in class? Around here, the teacher would take it off and hold it until the end of class if not the end of the day.

  4. Peace Corps says:

    I completely agree with the way she handled the situation. I probably would have told the student “you have 2 choices at this point: sit down and get your hat back, or go to the Dean of Students and deal with him. Your choice.” If I got no movement from the student, I would state that he had 5 seconds to get in his seat or I would be messaging the office to have someone come remove him from the classroom.

  5. J. D. Salinger says:

    Nice to see that Cal has a more affable personna at her blog Education Realist than the one she shows in comments here and at other blogs.