No, You Man Up! - The Jose Vilson

No, You Man Up!

by Jose Vilson on December 22, 2008

in Jose

chuckbebe

Chuck Baby

Today, I had a coverage for a gym teacher in the gym, a coverage I’ll take any day since I get to spend time with my students and I get to play a little basketball (hopefully and implicitly teaching them about sportsmanship and teamwork along the way). After sweating it out for about a period and a 1/2, I went to my classroom to finish up my day. I opened the door and of course, it’s my more … rowdy class. They have projects to finish, but they’re much more interested in being in the hallway and cursing out their on-again-off-again boyfriends / girlfriends / kissing buddies, etc.

Through all of this, my knucklehead, who I’ll call The Tough Guy, comes in, shakes my hand really hard. At first, it’s no big deal: my handshake is firm as well. Then, he decides to try and prove himself to me, and pulls me towards himself, saying “Come on, man. I’m a man already. Mad strong. When you get as strong as me, holla at me.” My first instinct, which I acted upon, was to reshake his hand, come up to his face, and reaffirm my own stance:

“When you come back to me with a college degree, you can holla back at me.”

And before I get called a snob or something, let it be known that my #1 priority in the classroom, irrespective of where my student is in their educational journey, is to make sure that they get their minds and hearts ready for the highest level of education possible. I can no longer sit in wait while most middle schoolers I’m familiar with can’t even see past junior year of high school. Some of my students are 2 years older than the rest of the students, so they’re close to seeing (a slightly skewed, but close) version of what manhood means. Injecting those few little words like “college” and “graduate” does a lot for a student’s psyche.

Frankly, I can hardly blame the kid for coming up to me thinking he’d try and intimidate me with his “tough talk.” He’s very open about his late-night excursions and makes overly lucid (and lewd) gestures. Why, that’s similar to what he’s already seeing promoted to him all over the media that’s targeted towards him. Yet, working with his dad doing janitorial work on the weekends and studying doesn’t appeal to him because he rarely sees men of his background step up to the plate, take him by the shoulder, and guide him any which way. As a teacher, I stand directly against what hes already been taught about himself, and that’s probably the hardest part about teaching him in general.

Even today, I tried to search for good news, in the name of fair and balanced reporting (ha). I went to GoodNewsNetwork.org and had to pay them just to get a little bit. I went to news.google.com and found nothing but bad news. I looked at the most popular stories of the day, and no good news. And by good, I mean, “This has or will help the average American out.” Those stories of good will and volunteerism go relatively unnoticed.

So I let go of his hand and he says, “Yo, you trying to herb me?”

“Nope, wasn’t trying.”

Laughter ensues.

An understanding emerges.

Jose, who definitely has a year-in-review blog coming up (thanks for asking) …

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

talda December 22, 2008 at 10:52 pm

i firmly believe the more a person hears good things the more they’ll believe it will happen. so hey, keep with the college talk for all your kids. that just might be the difference for some of them.

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ms_teacher December 23, 2008 at 12:40 am

The one thing so many of our inner city students lack is good male role models. The fact that you were able to shake his hand in that manner may make some people cringe. I, however, being the mom of two boys see the locking of the horns between my boys and their dad ALL the time and view it as completely, normal and healthy male behavior.

thank you for sharing this story.

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e. December 23, 2008 at 10:35 pm

i say it time and time again, it couldn’t be me. props for the way you handled it and ms_teacher’s right, there aren’t enough (black) male role models out there. thanks for stepping up to the plate.

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Mes Deux Cents December 24, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Jose,

Have a wonderful holiday! :)

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Jose December 25, 2008 at 10:47 am

Ladies, thanks for the comments. I definitely understand the power of having a good male role model. And while I’m far from perfect, I can see the effect I’m having on my students, especially those who may not have any role models in their lives. I need the encouragement more than you know.

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