18 July 2008

And then feminism goes right out the window...

So I had a student pull out a knife today. A great big, "I could gut you like a pig" knife.

It's not as bad as it sounds. OK, it is, but not in the way you're thinking. It was after class and he was admonishing us all to be safe around campus because there has been a rash of sexual assaults. He prefaced the knife by saying that he wouldn't usually have this, but he ordered it for his sister and it just came in.

He reached into his backpack, and for a brief moment I thought he might have a gun. Total paralysis set in.

But then he pulled out the knife, a six-inch weapon sheathed in hefty black leather. "If you pull this out," he said, "no one will mess with you." For a moment I was met with a strange sense of relief mixed once again with paralysis. He pulled it out of its sheath and for a moment I laughed. It looked fake with its black blade. A prank, I thought. Scare the would-be assaulter away with the idea of a big knife. But then he told us it was indeed real, and razor sharp.

I have never felt so uncomfortable and worthless in front of a classroom in my entire life. He meant no harm, but students were visibly backing away from him. What was probably only a few seconds felt like time stood still. And I did nothing but stare at him.

What could I have done? Part of me feels like I should have instructed him to put the weapon away. A bigger part of me knows that this almost seven foot tall man with a large knife scared me too much to even move.

I'm not even sure what to do with the whole situation--I'm hoping that my students aren't too uncomfortable to continue being open in class. I'm hoping that I didn't fail them by not taking control of the situation. I'm hoping a lot of things--many of them involving never seeing any weapon in my classroom again.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you should let security know what happen, that is something you do not normally carry every day.

mgm said...

Oh, LD, that's cree-ee-ee-pee! You might need to mention it to someone in the dept and ask about appropriate steps to take. Certainly, his actions were inappropriate and made everyone uncomfortable.

I understand your total paralysis. I have no idea how I would respond either, but he has surely crossed the line and there must be something that you can do to make yourself and your students more comfortable.

AcadeMama said...

Holy shitballs! Anonymous is 100% right; you definitely need to report the dude to your campus police, even if nothing more than to see if they can check his background. As instructors who get people when they're "all grown up" we have *no* idea what kind of history students have or what they're capable of. We know them for a few months, and that's it.

I'd even say that you should politely ask him to come in for a chat and see if he's willing to a)understand why you and his classmates would be freaked out and b)offer an apology for being the reason of said freak out. This will help to cover yourself in terms of your other students should any of them either still have some fear or possibly resentment at your inability to act (not that your temporary paralysis isn't entirely to be expected).

Just...holy cow...this isn't normal, even with the excuse he provided.

Anonymous said...

yeah i mean you knw me i love big knifes they are fun when they are kept in you closet or in your "camping" backpack they have no buisnes in a social setting of any kind unless you are int armed forces., secondly in most states it is illegal to carry sheved knives large than 4 inches, or somtiems sheeved knifs at all. if he wants his sisster to feel safe get her some pepper spray and self defences classes not a shine fuck off huge knife

your loving baby bro

LD said...

See, I had no idea that carrying a knife like that was illegal-- that was probably part of my hesitation to say anything. I knew it wasn't right for him to take it out at school, but I wasn't sure that it was wrong for him to have it period.

Tammy said...

Pepper spray is good. self defense classess are better...
I would report him has well.

Harish said...

Welcome to the real modern world....