Just a bunch of thugs and lazy people…criminals. When I say that I teach high school English at an alternative school, those are the comments people make. Yes, many of our students have rap sheets and discipline records that make you cringe. Does this mean they aren’t worthy of an education? Aren’t worthy of being treated with respect and human dignity? Many say yes, but I disagree.
I believe that you have to do what is right no matter what others think.
People often ask me why I teach at an alternative school. Can’t you get a job at a real school? I believe that I am where I am meant to be. I know what it is like to make mistakes. I know what it is like to feel like no one understands, and not to care if anyone understands. I also know that I am true to myself regardless.
He came in that day with a hard, cold stare…like looking at walking death. He sat down in a back desk and put his head down. Now, some would say I should have sent him to the principal, but I had to follow my heart. Be true to myself. I sat down beside his desk quietly asking him what was wrong. He never lifted his head off his arms, but he told me his story. He was going to court the next day for possession with intent to distribute. “I’m gonna get locked up,” was all he said. I don’t remember all I said, but I tried to be encouraging without preaching. He left the room and I didn’t expect to see him again.
The next day, my principal said I had a visitor. There he was standing at my classroom door. He came to tell me that he was sentenced to 90 days. He wanted me to know. He wanted to tell me goodbye. I didn’t see a convicted drug dealer. I saw a young man who believed I cared. And I did. After he left and my class went to lunch, I shut the door of my classroom and cried. I cried for who he is and who he could become.
Some people said that I was wrong – that he was a thug, a gang member, a drug dealer. Yes, he is all of that. He is also a person. I believe I have to do what is right, no matter what others think. In the end, it’s between God and I…everyone else is just tinkling cymbals.
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