Three years ago, at age 29, I took my first teaching job. The principal explained that I would be working with emotionally disturbed high school students who could “get a little out of hand.” She assured me that an upcoming three-day training session would give me all the tools I needed to handle them.
On the first day, 14 of us filed into a windowless conference room on the bottom floor of the school. We were all dressed comfortably, as had been suggested, and we arrived with pads and pens. We wouldn’t take any notes, however. Our instructor, who moonlighted as a bouncer, devoted the three days to what he called “hands-on” training.
Covering the floor of the room was a patchwork of blue vinyl mats, the kind used for teaching tumbling and gymnastics in PE. After splitting us into two groups (men and women), the instructor schooled and tested us in techniques to escape from choke holds, hair pulling, and biting. We were also taught to administer restraints, either singly or as a team. The instructor explained that students who are out of control—in danger of hurting themselves, someone else, or valuable property— need to be restrained on the floor until they’re “back in control.”
By the end of the first day, our legs were so sore that climbing flights of stairs required several breaks. But what bothered me more was that I wanted to teach— not engage in jungle warfare. After the training, I swore that I would never use what I had learned. Regretfully, it was the most useful training I’ve ever had.
A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 2001 edition of Teacher as Training Tales: Class War