The negative press lately regarding the number of students arrested for assault in local schools has brought to light a serious gap in the complete education of our children. I use the term complete because typically schools provide the book smarts and in decades past parents provided the social and emotional skills. As a current classroom teacher I can guarantee to anyone the days of teachers providing knowledge on one specific subject are long gone. It has of late fallen to teachers to also impress upon children social communication skills and emotional understanding of others. Many children entering our classrooms are completely unprepared to interact with others in a peaceful manner. These students are unable to reasonably and rationally end a disagreement with their peers and teachers, as there have been multiple incidents of both student fights and battery of a school teacher arrests. Apart from my classroom, this weekend I was witness to an intense dispute at Tiger Stadium, but unlike our students the men settled their differences in another way.
As I sat amongst thousands of tiger fans, three men in the rows ahead of me began yelling at each other to the point of the red tone of their faces accented the angry purple of their forehead veins. Of course they were on opposing sides of the game. The brawl included two men from our neighboring state’s team and one home town fan, all of which were at least 200 plus pounds. Although I was not privy to the origin of the argument I have a feeling that the guys on the opposite side standing up the entire time and trash talking probably had something to do with it. The yelling match played out much as you would expect from battling fans, but the actions from the surrounding men was somewhat of a surprise to this teacher who normally sees onlookers at school encouraging a beat down.
The man sitting next to me, Billy was all I knew of him to this point, had been talking throughout the game to nearly all the fans around and would high five everybody; a fun guy. As the men continued to yell he calmly reached his arm down across an entire row of college aged boys and put it on the tiger fan’s shoulder. Leaning on the man with the slightest of pressure he spoke into his ear, “You don’t need this buddy, let it go.” At exactly the same time another tiger fan in the adjacent seat quietly stood up, took his hat off and placed it on his seat. He remained standing without saying a word, like a soldier waiting for battle, hands clasped at his waist. His body was so stiff almost ready to spring should the words turn to blows in front of him. Both he and Billy were well past the thirty year mark amongst a few other much younger guys who simply sat watching the events unfold. As the realization of an entire section of eyes upon them hit home the opposite team’s fans spat out a few additional insults and turned away. Billy clapped and continued his encouragement to stop the argument and the bleacher “soldier” next to them remained standing for at least six to seven additional minutes. These two men each with their own style of mediation prevented what could have ended in one or more being thrown out if the game and or arrested.
A few plays later in the game the other team’s fans both turned to their former nemisis and apologized while all shook hands as real men do. To the onlookers both adult and children it was a life lesson much welcomed. These are the skills today’s children need to see modeled on a regular basis. Billy and the “soldier” possessed the emotional intelligence and know how that the younger men in the adjacent seats either did not or were not willing to display. The younger generation seem to be missing important life lessons. Being fight ready does not make you a stronger man or woman; the real victor is the person that can get their point across to someone of an opposing view with their words and actions with others, not actions against others.
There are still many families that have raised well-mannered children who interact with the politeness that society demands. Even when in arguments these kids may throw around a few insults and threats, but for most that is the extent of it. In contrast, taking it to the next level of physicality comes like second nature for a number of children who perhaps have not been raised in the same manner as their peers. When the first instinct is to strike with fists not to speak, altercations and eventual arrests are common place.
Trying to teach this lesson to students is difficult when many of them have personally told me that if they don’t finish a fight at school their parent will finish it at home. Many parents directing their impressionable offspring to no matter the situation always hit first and hit back, thus skipping over any hope for arbitration or resolving the situation with the assistance from other adults. If the state’s school boards hope to reduce the number of arrests for fighting or assaulting teachers they must begin to teach emotional intelligence and acceptable social behaviors at very early grades. Teach all children the alternatives to escalating an argument and teach parents how to communicate and model this behavior at home. As a society the first line of defiance for peace are people like Billy and the stadium “soldier”who put their own past experiences and skills to work. When law enforcement is called in to mediate aggressive individuals wether on school campuses or football stadiums their only recourse is to make arrests. That does not teach anyone involved how to handle themselves in a positive manner it only serves to reinforce the negative feelings of all involved. We need to teach the skills necessary to solve these everyday problems as often as possible both inside school rooms and living rooms.