teen sex Archives - The Jose Vilson

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

by Jose Vilson on January 28, 2008

Time Inc’s “Gay Teens” Cover

“That’s so gay.”“What a fuckin’ homo!”

“No, no, that’s it. You’re gay and that’s it.”

“Que maldito maricon del diablo (What a damn faggot from hell)!”

Snapshots of the realities of working in sexually conservative neighborhoods, where the parents of these 1st generation US citizens learn their sexual intolerance from their parents and neighbors who also grew up hating gays and lesbians, no matter what their experience. The phobias the kids have against even the perception of same sex relationships actually exacerbates the pressures of puberty than it does relieve it. The idea that somehow one person’s sexuality has any negative repercussions on another person’s marriage or life for that matter is simply ridiculous.

But that’s what our kids live with. Nowadays, though, the idea of fluid sexuality has come into the fore, and it’s definitely caught my eye with all the emo and rainbow-colored paraphernalia my kids wear and the songs they listen to, and that’s all understandable. I don’t walk around my school with dark-colored glasses, as much of the classroom culture I cultivate comes from understanding the kids’ interests and lives as people, not just math grade on the state test or OSIS (ID) number. Last Friday brought this position to light even more.

2 of my recent alum came to visit me on Friday for my birthday, and greeted me with hugs. It was cute, really. I was excited to know that they still cared enough about me to make that type of visit. Now, the taller of the two, who I’ll call J, said, “So guess what, Mr. V?” Now, normally, I expect something like “chicken butt“, typical kiddie business. Let’s just say this time, not so much.

“Me, S, and some of your other students are bi. And JD, well, he’s actually bi, too. You remember that time when he came up to you last year and said, ‘I got something to tell you’ and he said that I was gay? Well it’s that he really wanted to say that he was bi, but he didn’t know how you would react so he didn’t say anything.”

I replied that I knew, and it was plainly obvious from some of his body language during that conversation.

“Well, I knew all of that, and I’m happy that you all have enough trust in me that you almost revealed yourselves to me; that takes courage. And when you see him, tell him he can talk to me anytime.”

I couldn’t imagine all the harassment he had gone through when he made that announcement to his most intimate friends. I wish he would have approached me, because of the father-son relationship I believe we fostered over the 2 years I taught him. He was someone who provided lots of leadership through his years, and was a role model for the better part of the 2 years I knew him. Even when he slipped in his grades, he was still a gentleman and a good kid overall. He’s in high school now, so he’s probably found a cluster of people just like him or at least more mature people he can talk to. Same with my other former students who I knew were struggling with or discovering their sexualities.

Yet, there are classrooms where we let students who don’t know any better to speak coarsely about others even when we know they’re speaking more out of insecurity than hatred. They veer off the yellow brick road into territory they don’t know and no one teaches them about. The question then becomes, how do we as educators try our best to recognize each person’s person for lack of a better way of saying it? Middle school, more than any other stage of education, is the most inconstant time in their young lives. The lack of personal stability mixed with the quick awakening to the world’s ways makes finding one’s place in the world hardest, and I along with every other teacher from grades 5-9 can either help develop and nurture or hinder and injure their development as people. By allowing words like gay, faggot, maricon, and for that matter nigger, spic, chink, bitch, slut, we approve of these hindrances.

And the next time JD sees me, he knows who he can count on whenever there’s an issue. Despite his faults, his sexuality is not one of them.

jose, who’s growing rapidly everyday …


Tan Joven

by Jose Vilson on November 6, 2007

NYC CondomHonestly, today’s professional development didn’t do anything to make me a better teacher, and I’m pretty sure I have a ways to go before I become a good one, and I probably could have been a better teacher if they just let me do what I needed to for the children. Fuck it, I’d rather be teaching.

Speaking of which, last week, many of my kids went trick-or-treating for Halloween and got huge bags of candy (just as a point of reference, I don’t have children of my own, so I usually refer to the ones in school as mine). They came back with loads of candy; I haven’t seen anything like it since my own youth. M&M’s, Snickers, lollipops, gum drops, Nerds … it’s as if Willy Wonka reigned supreme over Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse for just one day.

But during class, one of my 6th grade girls (who should be an 8th grader and we’ll call girl A) pulled out and flashed something unexpected to one of my other 6th-should-be-8th grade girls (girl B): an NYC Condom. At first, I thought it was candy because they were completely hi off the stuff, but I recognizes the black wrapping and subway colors from the wonderful Bloomberg ads around the city and said aloud, “Whatever it is we have right now, if it’s not related to math, then please put it away.”

I didn’t see it again, but I still had that itch in the back of my mind. So we went downstairs to take class pictures, and I got the opportunity to talk to girl B when girl A and another friend left to run an errand for one of the parents present. I had a sit down with girl B that went something like this:

“I know what I saw in the classroom. Now, you don’t have to discuss it if you don’t want to, but as your teacher, I do need to address it because I saw it in my classroom. Remember that, if you’re going to use it, don’t let whatever it is you do become who you are. You have a bright future ahead of you, and I don’t want you to endanger your future by taking too many of those risks. You can make your own decisions, but I’m asking you to be careful.”

She giggled and said, “Yeah, it was cold and I was feeling it, so I had some fun, so yeah …” I just reiterated what I said, and told her that this conversation didn’t have to pass to her friends, who I was sure would be back in a few minutes.

girlsinschool.jpgBefore Halloween, I already saw that student as an intelligent young lady. She really seemed to just need the motivation to channel that energy. She was left back twice, so the school system was already going to fail her. Now she has a chance to at least graduate high school by 21, and college in her twenties, too. However, she struck me as insecure from the moment I met her, and that’s unfortunate. She’s not the most girlie girl in the class, but she’s probably one of the most sensitive. Even though no one’s done anything to her to tick her off, I’ve already seen shades of what could happen should someone rub her the wrong way.

And unfortunately, when you don’t have much confidence in yourself, you start to make decisions that aren’t in your best interest. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with teen sex, because I know despite me, it’s going to happen. As older and hopefully wiser citizens of this Earth, we do have a moral obligation to direct our children in a positive direction. Frankly I can’t tell girl B that she’s making the right or wrong decision, but I can help her think about the possible outcome for her acts.

It’s especially empowering for a man like me to tell that to her. Because of the male-dominated society we live in, young women don’t often hear men who want them to make informed decisions about their sexual behaviors. So many men want these little girls to become women really quickly, and usually for the worst intentions. Women in any public school have a wide array of women that they can turn to in their time of need, but they hardly see men of any distinction or success that they can trust.

Plus, I already had enough restrictions on that kind of talk without feeling like there’s a lawyer knocking on my classroom door. What can I do but what comes naturally to me? Where was the woman in her life to have this sort of conversation with her, too? Frankly, I didn’t ask all of that because I was more trying to address a situation that happened in my classroom, but it turned into a teachable moment of sorts. Sometimes, when there’s no alternative, I just make the best informed decision I know how to.

After I told her that, she just looked at me as if to tell me, “Wow, you’re right. I needed that.” But she didn’t have to. She’s too young to verbalize that.

jose, who still has tons of work to do …