Trenches

[written in Baltimore, MD, while teaching English in a Baltimore City Public high school]

Sometimes I almost regret calling the guardian of a kid I’m worried about/fed up with. When the adult goes off on the child, I just think, “Shit. Another reason for them to feel small. I should have handled this differently.”

A father of one of my boys came to school–again–today and spent an hour of our time expressing his disappointment, frustration and concern through a series of reflections and warnings laced with profanity. I sat quietly for much of this, praying it will be effective because we’re running out of time for this child to turn things around, and again wondering if maybe I should have used another tactic to get him on track.

But when this father repeated something I’ve heard him say in the past–“Boy, you need this education. You don’t get this education now when they’re trying to give it to you, and you’ll just end up dead or in jail wishing you were dead. And then none of us can help you”–it reminded me that for so many of my kids, life is virtually a war zone. They need as many people down in the trenches with them if they are to make it out. So while I will continue to cringe at some of the things that I hear and see in these conferences, I need to remember: these guardians have been or are in these trenches themselves. Being there isn’t pretty, so getting out won’t be, either.

 

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