tough as nails

by gillis

While watching a basketball game at school last month, I was asked by the mother of one of my students if I was a boxer. I asked her to repeat the question as I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly. She explained that her son had come home from school the previous day and proudly showed his mother the difference between a hook and an upper cut without prompting. When she asked him where he had learned about these punches, he happily told her I had demonstrated several punches in class that morning. I vaguely remembered doing this in response to a minor argument that had broken out between a few of the kids who were discussing how they would take care of one of the antagonists in the novel they were reading. I wanted them to be specific in their thinking and writing. If the protagonist is going to punch the antagonist, what will that punch look like? What will the puncher do with their hand and arm? What will the punchee see and feel when the hit connects? What might it all sound like? When the class asked me how I knew these punches, I shared that I sometimes take a kick boxing class at the gym.

Apparently a group of students became very interested in this and they spoke at length, over the course of several days, about my work as a boxer. They began taking notice of things that I did and said in class that corroborated their theories about my secret life as a fighter. I had noticed a new energy in the room, and I attributed it to their interest in the book and, ahem, my engaging lessons. I told the mother that I certainly wasn’t a boxer any more than I was a professional dancer for having taken dance classes. She asked me not to clear this up for her son. She wanted him to believe that I was tough as nails.

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