Informed by nearly six years of teaching experiences in high poverty schools of New York and Amsterdam, this ethnographic comparison examines the following question: Even though they often say they “know better”, why do so many teens from low income neighborhoods behave in aggressively disruptive ways that contribute to the further destruction of their own schools? This article suggests that the long dominant oppositional black culture approach to such questions related to life in distressed urban schools promotes overly mentalist and therefore superficial analyses. A more fully incarnated, collectively impassioned, relational, and processual way of thinking about the gradual socialization and immediate coping processes behind the further devastating of physically violent schools is offered. Interrogating the state and process that students in both settings referred to with terms like “coming hard”, this article brings to life the temporarily seductive yet ultimately maladaptive embodied stress responses of two male students effectively forced to sever visceral connections to themselves. Probing deep into how hardening was both habituated and situated on opposite shores of the Atlantic Ocean can help us advance our grip on—and perhaps even our attempts to deal with—the ways in which teenagers’ feelings of empathy and abilities to “think straight” are crowded out during the moments that matter most in and around our worst schools.