That time my 8th grade history teacher let my class punch me because it was my birthday.

Chase Roper
7 min readJan 27, 2021


Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

When I was in the 8th grade, I went to Cedarcrest Junior High in a swank town called Spanaway, WA. Students’ birthdays were celebrated amongst their friends by finding them in the hallway and punching that person as many times to equal the number of years old they just turned. The onslaught would often occur at a bus stop, outside the school, or in passing through the halls. The blows could land softly in jest or with intent to bruise enough for the recipient to enjoy that birthday celebration long into the next week.

I vaguely remember teachers trying to monitor and put a stop to the practice so it became routine for these strikes to happen without warning and end as fast they began. This is an impressive feat when you consider everyone was turning 13–15 years old at this school. Needless to say, if you weren’t a jock, a run of the mill tough kid, or a sadist, you learned to keep your birthdate as well guarded as the Ebola virus at USAMRIID. The thought of getting punched terrified me. I was a frail, underweight kid who loved theater, writing comedy sketches and playing Battle Masters all weekend with my best friend. I remember bits and fragments of certain memorable moments of my life as an 8th grade student. Performing as Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, being an anchor for the video morning announcements, and yet there is only one day that I still vividly remember walking into my 2nd period class and taking my seat before the bell rang; November 2nd, my birthday.

All I had to do was make it safely to each class where the mere presence of a teacher will deter any assailants fearful of receiving detention. At least I could breath easy during class. Mr. Allen was a football coach at my school. I remember him as a large intimidating guy with the build of an NFL offensive lineman (a football reference that I understand now but would have been wasted on 8th grade me.) Back then, I would have likened him as more of a blonde Zangief. Naturally, this guy who I now am sure had barely achieved the minimum requirements to allow him to coach football at a Junior High Level, was teaching my 8th grade history.

I can’t remember who knew it was birthday. I had protected that information as though not getting punched by several kids all day was on the line because not getting punched by several kids all day WAS on the line. I’d successfully navigated the halls, made it through first period and now someone who must’ve known me from elementary ruined it all. The class had all sat down. Me, somewhere in the center of a sea of desks, and everyone around me, fists at the ready, waiting for a mere hint of birthday blood to hit the water.

“Mr. Allen,” the surely demon serving student started, “today is Chase’s birthday!”


My heart sank and my heartbeat became the single loudest event in the school. Once I leave that classroom, I was going to have to book it full speed across the school to 3rd period. My mind raced as I tried frantically to plan my looming escape. My worries were immediately dashed when Mr. Allen opened his big, dumb, jock mouth.

“Oh ok,” he said as he sort of chuckled and gave the class a half smile. Then, something unexpected happened. The teacher who’s sole responsibility was to educate and protect me while in his presence, began to turn his back to the class.

“I’ll cover my eyes.”

He’ll cover his eyes, he said. It was an insinuation that the boys around me picked up on instantly. Mr. Allen was going to pretend, if only for a brief moment, that he wasn’t seeing whatever was about to happen and he’s letting the class know that this is their opportunity to celebrate my birthday. This teacher didn’t think it was harmful for boys to act like boys. Those were his words to me later in the presence of the principal. It was harmless. Everyone was just having some fun. BOYS WILL BE BOYS.

One boy from each desk around me sprang up from their seats. The student in front me is burned into my memory. The hurried look in his eye to get his licks in before the teacher turns back around. He turned toward me with his fist already recoiled and ready to strike. I never saw the first punch that landed as it came from behind and hit me right on my shoulder blade. I winced as another came from my right, knocking me over onto the floor with my legs still stuck up in the desk. The rest came in a blur.

These weren’t kids like me. I guarantee that not one of them could name a single member of the Kids in the Hall, had ever heard a song by They Might Be Giants or knew that in order to beat Mojo in X-Men on the Sega Genesis, you actually had to lightly PRESS the reset button on the console at a specific moment in the game. No, these kids played football. They had muscles and loved punching kids on their birthdays. The violent ordeal was over in about a minute. The kids popped back into their seats as Mr. Allen turned back around and I pulled myself up to my desk. I was in pain and ridiculously embarrassed as the entire class had eyes on me as I was received my birthday accolades.

My face was on fire with redness from the event and attention. I was experiencing what I now know as an adult to be one of countless anxiety attacks in my life and while I struggled to stay grounded and collect myself (let alone process what just happened to me), Mr. Allen wrote a question on the board and then offered to allow the birthday boy the first opportunity to answer.

In the coming weeks, I’d have a few meetings with the principal and this teacher. The first was prompted when my mom called the school to raise living hell the next day after she heard the news. On the 4th, I was called to the office. Sitting next to the principal was Mr. Allen. Neither of my parents, no school counselor — just this asshole teacher who I was afraid of seeing and my principal. The “resolution” I “agreed” to was simple; Mr. Allen thought I was having fun and said he was sorry if I felt singled out or upset when the other students were just trying to have some fun as well and in return, I would accept the apology and shut up about it already. I’m paraphrasing but that’s the gist of it.

By the end of the week, my mom had made calls to the principal, the teacher’s union, and the super intendent of the district. The incident was put in Mr. Allen’s teaching record and my schedule was changed so that I was no longer in his class. Instead, I was in a health class with the OTHER school coach. The concept that these two coaches were pals and most definitely talked about what a wimp I was, and how much my mom was out to ruin their careers was not lost on me. To my mom’s credit, she listened to me and advocated for me when the school demonstrated that it would not so that I would continue to feel safe at school. That incident would be brought up or thrown in my face by kids who were there several more times that year and the next.

In 9th grade, I was absent for more than half a school day for a dental appointment. It was the same day as our opening night performance of The Sound of Music. My mom received a frantic call when we got home from my choir director. Mr. Allen was trying to get me pulled from performing that night. You see, when a student on the football team missed more than 50% of the school day on a game day, there was a district rule in place that prevented that student from being started for that game. Mr. Allen was pressuring the district to stop me from “starting.” Since you cannot switch actors mid play, he was trying to flat out bench me. A year and a half later and that smug piece of shit still had it out to get revenge on a nerdy theater kid who called him on his shit.

My director told the powers that be, that unlike a football team, we don’t need a field on school property to perform. We can move the set off the campus for the night and be just fine, he’s not pulling me. I learned the guitar for this role for Christ’s sake! The district caved and Mr. Allen went back to what I assume was a nightly routine of making and then burning effigies of me in his backyard.

What were the “traditions” at your school that worried you that found you fearful in the halls or praying to go unseen? And to Mr. Allen, if you’re reading this, go fuck yourself.



Chase Roper

Chase has written for Earwolf blog, LaughSpin, jokes for Life & Style Mag and Today Show Blog.