You have to be tough to walk the halls of a public school in the city of Cleveland.
Overwhelming for the sheltered, sensitive, suburban adult; the masses of teenagers who pour out of classrooms at the sound of a bell, can offend every sense.
From the acrid stench of hormonal armpits and post-lunch methane emissions, to physical bumping and jostling from the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd moving to the next class, the easily offended are immediately repulsed. The F-bomb, often accompanied by a "mother" is used as adjective, verb, noun, and pronoun; in friendly greetings and menacing threats.
Those of us who choose to work with adolescents, develop a coat of emotional armor out of necessity. Our thick skin helps us to survive the highly charged atmosphere. The veteran of the urban classroom often appears unflappable. But every once in a while a chink appears in the protective coat, and something gets to you.
A number of years ago, I was teaching at a 6-12th grade magnet school. One afternoon, during class change, the halls were typically flooded with students. A social studies teacher stood by her classroom door laughing with a colleague, when she was rudely shoved by a skinny 11 year old sixth grader.
"Get the f-ck out of my way, you f-cking, fat, white, b-tch."
Her jovial face filled with rage, and spinning around, she pinned the nasty child up against the ceramic block wall and hissed.
"Don't you ever...ever...ever...call me FAT!"
She backed away, and the terrified boy hurried off to his next class, having learned a very important lesson.
There are some things you never say to a woman.