A Teacher’s Story

Veteran Philadelphia teacher Frank Burd tells his own story about the violence that plagues Philly’s schools, the incredible support he received from the community, and his ongoing fight to recover

Everyone has his turn at 15 minutes of fame. Fifteen minutes would have been more than enough for me. But when I awoke in the hospital, my head in a huge metal brace, my neck in pain, it was the beginning of an ordeal that has not yet ended.

I know many teachers who fear for their safety in urban schools. I was never one of them. You see, I’ve never in my life been in a fight. I’ve never hit anyone, and no one’s ever hit me. That doesn’t mean I was afraid to be a physical presence. I’d walked into the middle of many brawls in the halls when I knew one or more of the combatants. I would actually get between the fighters, put my hand on one’s shoulder or arm, and talk like the dickens.

“Come on,” I might say. “You don’t need this.” Or, “Come into my room. Let it go.” Actually, I’m not sure what I said most of the time. But usually, the kid I knew let go. Usually, he followed me, or even allowed me to handle him.

Yes, I handled and shoved kids. I knew I wasn’t supposed to do that and could get into trouble. But I only did it to protect them from each other. And I only did it if it was a boy. I didn’t touch girls. Girl fights are another story.

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