I Give You My Heart

Recourse To Love [The Love Below Series]

Jose Vilson Jose 3 Comments

This is my second “The Love Below” post. Ever wondered how kids are interacting romantically in public school right now? Read here.

I Give You My Heart

I Give You My Heart

Two weeks ago (or was it last week? All of it is getting rather blurry to me), I broke up a fight between a really strong 16-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl who wasn’t quite as big. Being one of the only males of the school, I once again found myself breaking up another fight. This one was different; they were tugging at each other’s hair, and when I finally broke them up, he said, “I don’t hit girls. What the fuck, man?”

What? The hell you don’t. I’ve seen you my damn self!

Yeah I know “her” sordid history. For some reason, kids seem to be comfortable enough to tell me all their business. Well, most of it anyways.

They tell me the basics about who they like, since when, and maybe even what they did. For example, last year, I had to talk to one of my girls about the appearance of a condom popping out of her jacket. Again, I always tread on this taboo stuff, but I speak earnestly and know what I’m getting into (usually). With Valentine’s Day coming up, I’m already starting to hear about the buzz about who’s going to ask who to what. I’ve already confiscated drawings, candy, and love letters, most of which had deplorable spelling errors (yes, I’m being tongue-in-cheek). Everyone’s dressing a little nicer, and even the boys have decided to actually smell appropriately for public settings. It’s wonderful really.

Yet, I can’t help but be bothered just a smidget about what’s going on with them. I often feel like with their minds on every and anything else, they’ll never find a way to balance out those parts of their lives with the work that, for their futures, needs to get done. And I don’t just mean my class work. It becomes hard to instill the values of education into my students when so many of them are more concerned with the girls they’re going out with (and in some cases, the girls they’re sharing), the freshest outerwear, or in general, acting like they’re part of a gang or a set when they’re not even close to gangsta.

What worries me most is the lack of examples they have for what constitutes as love. As I’ve recently found out personally, the past definitely comes back to haunt you in your relationships. So here I am, listening to them talk about each other behind their backs but in such loving tones, it gives me hope that they’ll learn to have real and positive relationships with each other. Then, I walk down the street at night and see a guy beating up on his girl because a) they don’t know how else to address their angst and b) because that’s all they’ve ever seen. He’ll “smack a ho” for “talking shit,” but when they were small children, like the ones I’m teaching now, they were putting their head down on a desk, crying their eyes out for another girl who they broke his heart.

My sincerest hope when I see them out there, looking at each other lovingly, slapping each other and making kissy faces at each other, is that they remember the abuses their mothers suffered through, that they’ve seen in their own neighborhoods, and step far away from the gloomy examples of their present day. Girls that look up to Rihanna and boys that want to dance like Chris Brown need someone that’ll show them what a real and successful relationship looks like (Chris Brown himself hasn’t really had that).

Love changes definition in time for our kids, but the feeling becomes a much easier feeling to understand when real love takes over …

Jose, who thinks domestic abuse jokes are completely unfunny …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 3

  1. Sugarlips

    So so true. Children do learn by example, and there are just so very few good examples out there. When you look at pop culture, who is showing those examples these days? Um, I can’t think of a one that would really be considered influential (except maybe the Obamas, now). And when I look around, it is so very rare to find someone whose parents are still together, or who were ever together to begin with. I’ve seen children witness their parents’ indiscretions, and even been forced to cover for their parents whereabouts to their girlfriends/boyfriends, knowing darn well dad was dipping out on his wifey (or vice versa). What are these kids’ impressions on love and relationships, and how will they affect their behavior as they get older? It’s a sad thought, really.

  2. Joy

    Great insight! I have some of these same misgivings being a principal of a charter middle school myself. Of course, last week, all the buzz was surrounding the Rihanna/Chris domestic violence incident. All my kids were remarkably restrained even though they’ve seen much, much worse in their daily lives. Most want to find out WHY he would do something like that to someone who (according to all the pictures they ever see) he loved. They want to see him punished if found guilty—but not persecuted for the rest of his life. They have fathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins who come and go through county jail and the pen so much it makes their heads spin. In the same vein, these same men, who make mistakes, are the same men who love and take care of them, when they can,with what they have. So I understand the sympathy they have for Chris Brown

    My teachers believe this is a perfect “teachable moment” wherein they can help the girls and boys navigate disagreements differently and help stop the “revolving door” that could very well begin shortly after they leave the cocoon of my middle school.

    Oh, and if you ever make it to L.A.—I’ll teach you to drive. LOL

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