Almost all the classrooms in my school have a mysterious black button on the wall, located somewhere behind the teacher's desk, just to the right of the telephone. This button is NOT labeled. It's presence is RARELY questioned. It's purpose is NEVER to be discussed with students. And it is NEVER to be touched lightly.
It is to be pounded frantically three or four or even five times when a classroom situation requires back-up. It is the Security Call Button.
I have pressed this button exactly one time in my three years on this particular campus, and while the events are old, the story stays fresh. This is the story I tell at parties, when someone asks "And what do YOU do?", or when I need to break the ice.
This is the story of the only time I ever used the Security Call Button.
It happened in my fourth period class, a little over a year ago. Fourth period is right before lunch, which means the kids are usually a bit amped, and bit hungry, and a bit feisty. And if a particular student has a generally amped, hungry, and feisty character, well...that character gets magnified.
"Johnny" was just such a kid. He was actually one of my favorite kids...just not when he was inside the classroom. He was smart. He was friendly. He had a wicked sense of humor. But in class that sense of humor parlayed into inappropriate sexual or racial jokes. "Johnny" of course did not see the problem with that, even as the rest of the class was swinging from the rafters and I was trying desperately to hold it together. He loved the attention. Oh, and "Johnny" suffered from a touch of STP (Something To Prove) and vandal-itis.
What I'm about to tell you is second-hand information. I saw none of this transpire, and only learned about it later when certain sources were sure they wouldn't get pounded into the ground for telling me.
I was conferencing with students about the essays they were writing when "Johnny" had a sudden fit of vandal-itis. He was supposed to be engaged in a peer-editing activity with a classmate, but instead he had grabbed a red expo marker from the white board, and was writing illegibly on every hard surface within a three foot radius. It just so happened that "Mikey's" desk was directly behind "Johnny's."
Now "Mikey" was significantly bigger than "Johnny," and significantly slower on the uptake, but he was a pretty jovial guy who didn't pose much of a threat. I'm particularly grateful for the last two qualities, because this scenario could have played out much worse than it did. But back to the story.
Apparently, "Johnny" had turned around in his seat and tagged on "Mikey"'s desk. Mikey, not wanting to take the rap for said vandalism, frantically wiped off the offending letters. On the streets, this is known as "crossing out," and it isn't done unless one is looking to get one's ass kicked.
"Johnny" stands up. He faces "Mikey".
What I'm about to tell you is firsthand information. I could smell the tension. Tension smells like monkey-bar hands, or dirty pennies.
"You f----in' cross me out, man? You wanna go?" "Johnny" is standing in front of Mikey, with his hands up in a guard position.
Mikey grins goofily. He stands up. He doesn't know. He thinks "Johnny" is messing with him. "Yeah, man, we'll go!"
I heard the dull thud of fist on face before I saw the swing. As I looked up from the desk where I had been working, I saw "Mikey's" stunned expression. "Johnny" was bobbing and weaving, looking for the next shot.
I also saw my co-teacher flying across the room toward the two boys. In a half second, I did a series of mental calculations for possible interventions leading to outcomes that would be desirable given the current situation. I could let them go. I could get between them myself. I could have a brawl of epic proportion on my hands if other students decided to get in on it. Then I remembered. SECURITY CALL BUTTON.
SCB it was. I jabbed that button two or three times in rapid succession, then intercepted "Johnny." My co-teacher has already intercepted "Mikey" and escorted him from the room.
With "Mikey" safely away from the scene, I put "Johnny" out in the hall to wait for security. I returned to the classroom to get the other kids settled and focused.
Within seconds, a security guard cracks my door and beckons me into the hallway.
"Did he take his clothes off before or after the fight?"
I'm speechless. Take his clothes off?
"His clothes, ma'am. When did he take them off?"
I step out in to the hallway. I see a pile of red and white at the security guard's feet...and then a pile of "Johnny" with his head tucked, looking sheepish.
I just shake my head.