I remember the day like it was yesterday. A young man was sent to the office for putting his head down in class and refusing to lift it. As the young man walked by my classroom, he shook his head at me and tried to explain. As his teacher flew from his room to escort him to the office, he caught my eye and he understood to hush and say nothing. I heard his teacher say to him that he would be beaten by the cops one day and that he hoped he saw it. I could not believe my ears. I shook with anger and waited for the teacher to go back to his room and proceeded to the office to check on this child as well as report what I heard. There was never a conversation had with that teacher but that student was removed from that room and placed in mine because I asked for him.
A few weeks ago, I found myself becoming unnerved while watching a twitter chat because of a statement made about “loving the hard to love kids”. It bothered me so much because I thought of him. I thought of every kid that I taught that no one else seemed to want to reach. I imagine that they were amongst the “hard to love”.
These are kids that do not conform easily. They rarely do their homework and they may even speak up for themselves when they feel that they are wronged. They carry baggage from home as well as mounds of disjointed experiences from every classroom that they have been in. They can spot a caring heart a mile away and when they know that you care, you have them. At the same token, when they know that you despise them, they will return the favor. This is all that they know…survival 101. Life teaches them those lessons.
In my classroom, beyond the standards that they had to learn, they also had to learn how to survive in a classroom that by its design wasn’t meant for them. They had to learn how one wrong response on their end could be the ammunition used to remove them from the learning environment. They needed to know when to hold it in and how to control the anger that they felt at classroom injustices. There were many.
My mother taught us to choose our actions in spite of those that were against us. You can’t make a person care for you but you can choose how you react to their lack of caring. At the same token, these young men had to learn how to make personal adjustments in order to get what they needed out of a situation….a lesson that they knew very well. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I happened to be there at the right moment to remind them of what they already knew.
“Don’t say a word. Be still. Your words and actions will determine your place in this situation. Have the last thought”
The difference is that this was taking place in a classroom, not driving while black and not in the streets. This was happening in a place that by its design was against them too.
It’s rare that anyone sticks up for the “hard to love”. Maybe it’s time that we did.