A lesson learned
It’s a small class due to a field trip, with five or six students working independently in front. A solitary boy in the back watches me and the students with a slightly hostile demeanor. He has no work out and I’m letting that slide.
All off a sudden he decides it’s time to come up to the front and put his hands around the neck of a girl right in front of me. He’s behind her and his grip isn’t tight enough to do any harm, just make her mad. She grabs his hands and tries to pull them off unsuccessfully.
“Grab a finger and bend it back ’til you hear it crack,” I tell her matter-of-factly. “You’re not strong enough to pull a hand off, but a finger’s enough.” He doesn’t give her a chance to test it out. I ignore him as he heads slowly back to his lair, and tell the group, “You can’t worry about hurting someone when they have their hands around your throat. Just grab it and yank it back—all the way to here.” They’re quite attentive.
Although a potentially valuable lesson was presented, and is likely to be remembered by some, I should have given the sulking boy in the back some positive attention early on. Certainly after the incident he needed some, though it would have been a challenge to make positive contact by then. His action wasn’t to get the girl’s attention, it was to get mine because I was ignoring him. No matter how worthwhile the lesson was, it was at the expense of someone’s self-esteem. I doubt he had much of it going into the class.