Tan Joven

Jose Vilson 5 Comments

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 …

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 5

  1. Post
    Author
    Jose

    I totally agree. Thanks, POT. Reflecting on the experience, I realized that I took a huge risk by doing what I did, but honestly, if I didn’t, who would?

  2. e

    this was very touching. i wish more young girls (or even women) could have a man promote thoughtfulness when it came to sex. i hope in time she can appreciate the discussion.

    peace,
    e.

  3. Hugh O'Donnell aka Repairman

    In my later years PC was just getting ramped up, and anything remotely sexual in content was off-limits for teachers. We were paranoid.

    I just snitched out the suggestively dressed girls, or other kids I was worried about for whatever reasons that might have to do with sex or hygiene, to the overworked and underpaid school counselor. She got even, because she put all the 8th grade behavior problems in my class. She knew I could relate to them! :)

    Call me chicken, but the late 90s and early 2000s were not open-minded years in the old schoolhouse.

    More power to you, my man. Dang, we coulda used some of those rubbers, too.

  4. Sue

    I think its great that you took the time and had the compassion and caring to do this. It reminded me of that Lauren Hill song on The Miseducation of Lauren Hill – Doo Wop (That Thing). I too realize that teen sex (or pre-teen sex as the case may be) is inevitable in some cases, but when its done out of a search for love and confidence, its truly disturbing.

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