Creating a Sliver of Hope Whenever Possible, Wherever Possible
We're in the hallway.
My rubber soles screech in a stuttered pace as I monitor the halls before the change of period.
A couple of students walk out of the science lab directly in front of me and salute me. I made one of them a student ambassador because he had little involvement anywhere else. The other just came back from a long suspension.
"What's up, Mr. V?"
"Nothin' much. Just watching the hallway. Where are you both off to?"
"We got lunch next, but we have to take care of this business real quick before we go."
"Oh OK. Why weren’t you at math?"
"Iuno …" He shied away, but then realized who he was talking to, so he proceeded to tell me about a fight he got into outside. This time, he swore, it wasn't his fault. His movements reminded me of cousins whose anger made them pace back and forth in very small spaces, fists clenched, cheeks flushed, and eyes unmoved.
"Well, I'm not sure if you knew this, but I'm your new math teacher?"
"You are?" Before he could react, my student ambassador said, "Aiyyo, you lucky. At least it's not …" Before he could finish, he too realized who he was talking to.
"Yo," said the fighter, "I'm gonna' do my thing, get my grades up," with the finger rubbing his nostrils like my hood associates do when they're determined.
"Oh 'aight." We smiled at the moment, for I don't otherwise come off as someone with street wisdom. The royal blue Polo sweater, checkered flannel blue shirt, black pants, and no lace shoes don't scream gangsta. Or gangster.
Yet, by extending myself in this way, I immediately send him a note that he has a chance to do better. To see past the rage, anger, bullying, and disruptive behavior, you have to look at students like the lights they were meant to be. Yes, you hold them accountable. Yes, you reprimand them as necessary. Concurrently, you see kids for their potential, and spark a reaction that makes things kinetic.
It often involves removing our egos from the situation, listening to the timbre of children whose raw purity renders educational jargon useless. Taking less time to talk over the people we serve gives us more of the buy-in we so utterly desire.
This new class I'm teaching has lots of potential sparks. Here's hoping I can create those slivers of hope, wherever possible, whenever possible.
Green seedling image via Shutterstock
A version of this post originally appeared at The Jose Vilson
So You Think You’re a Foodie? Pop culture was onto these trends way before you were. A sampling of the screwball comedies, sob stories, and sci-fis that anticipated our culinary moment
Dear Nine-Year-Old Me The transition is going to be difficult for you, but whenever you feel a little lonely and left out, take comfort in the knowledge that you are honing one of your greatest superpowers.
What to Do When Your Country is Drowning The wild and desperate ways island nations are fighting the effects of climate change
The Rise of Drone Pizza Delivery Why the skies will soon be filled with flying, snack-bearing robots
How Helsinki Became a Public Transporation Paradise One European city plans to make car ownership obsolete within a decade.
Follow the Crowd NanoCrafter and the rise of group intelligence Why online gaming may just be the future of science
The Empathy Mirror Neurofeedback enables us to better see ourselves in the other. Recent discoveries in neurofeedback can teach you to be less of a dick.
Robots On Ice Probe the Arctic Why a team of research robots is investigating disappearing sea ice, and why you should care
Don’t Turn Away Colin Finlay photographs the consequences of climate change. You will never see more beautiful photos of the deteriorating state of our planet than the ones in this photo feature.
Puppy Love How dogecoin spawned an improbable community of giving What a canine-emblazoned cryptocurrency can teach about philanthropy
Positive In, Positive Out: How a USC Alumna is Coping with Lymphoma Coast Guard Reserves member Cassie Sulfridge, 28, had just graduated from MSW@USC, the Southern California university’s web-based Master of Social Work program, and was working two jobs when her life was turned upside down.
Politics by Yummier Means An Israeli-Palestinian popup restaurant and the precarious art of gastric diplomacy Two chefs win over hearts, minds, and stomachs in Jerusalem.