Back in the days of classroom blackboards, it was often said that teachers had eyes in the back of their heads.
It was another way of saying that students couldn't get by with anything because the teacher didn't miss a trick. The teacher seemed to know and anticipate all activity within his or her classroom.
Last week, that old saying proved true in a terribly modern scenario at Bluffton High School.
When a senior brought 12 knives, a loaded gun, gasoline, lighter fluid and fireworks to school, what could easily have turned into a deadly situation was defused by an attentive teacher.
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When the student asked social studies teacher Maggy Williams, "Can I talk to you?" the tone of his voice alerted her that something was not normal that day. She listened. By taking the time to do that, the student confided that he was thinking about hurting himself, said principal Mark Dievendorf.
And she reacted quickly.
"Once she heard that, she said, 'Well, you know, you've done the right thing because I can help you, and I can get you to some other individuals who can help you as well. Here, let's do that,'<2009>" Dievendorf said.
From there, an assistant principal, social worker, behavior-management specialist and a uniformed school resource officer intervened. The school experienced an hours-long and scary lockdown, but no harm came to anyone.
Williams downplayed her role. We hope she is right in saying that any teacher would have done what she did. That gives the community a chance to better appreciate the often thankless role teachers -- and other youth leaders -- play in helping students cope with life, as well as learn basic skills. Teachers can be with students more hours in a day than their parents. It would be nice to think that all teachers are paying attention to warning signs and that all parents would appreciate the input rather than deny their child has a problem.
The lessons in this case spread well beyond the classroom.
We salute Dievendorf for handling a stressful situation with openness and transparency. That hecalm all concerned.
The teacher taught us the value of investing in a relationship with young people and offering a safe haven of trust. Only then could she know that something was wrong. We must all take time to listen and earn trust.
We also saw the importance of taking action. We must never assume that someone else will deal with a problem. It's up to each of us to make a difference.
In today's interconnected world, everyone must be a good teacher. We all must take time to listen -- and use the eyes in the back of our heads.