Tomorrow May Never Come

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Mos DefToday, I had an emotional and heart-wrenching day at the school. I’m still unclogging myself from the excess amounts of frozen margaritas, quesadillas, and shrimp I had at Mama Mexico last night, and a weird morning in which I waited until the very last minute to leave my house and take my hour-long ride on the silver limos, one labeled “F” and the next labeled “A”. I had no reason to go into school other than pride, because I had a good lesson plan ready for my kids, and I’d prefer to teach my children rather than some random (and often confused) substitute.

In general, it started off auspiciously enough. My homeroom children (Team Orange as I shall refer to them as from now on) did their work, and the progress in their mathematical reasoning and explanation. Even with the little discussions going on, I still found the whole 2 periods successful on a few levels.

Fast forward to the fire drill. Unfortunately, Team Orange decided to lose their damn minds. Not only did they decide to make tons of noise while we went downstairs, one of the children (who I later found out felt distress over his mom’s hospital admission) completely showed me disrespect when he went BACK into the class after I called his name 3 times before I said, “We need to go!” My AP followed the class and yelled at them for them to keep quiet.

Of course, when we got out of the building, I had all types of things to say to the child, most of which includes a free call to his father and detention with me. I further thought of the ramifications if one or more of my children stayed behind, considering our homeroom’s on the top floor. We were the last class out of the building, and I felt a little shame, too, not because I hadn’t explained the fire drill rules carefully, but because the principal told us how well we did for that drill. I begged to differ.

So I let them have it for a while on the bottom floor after everyone went back to class. The aforementioned AP also had the same conversation, but those little eyes definitely welled up twice after what I had to tell them: about how if anything happened to them, I’d have to jump back in and rescue someone. If I lost them, I’d lose my mind. They’re not just a liability, but my children, and I’m responsible for their well-being.

I do concede that I have a bit of a “hero” syndrome when it comes to my homeroom children, but I also know that one can’t help but treat those children like your own when you see them more than you even see your own family five out of seven days. As much as fire drills make me ill, I instantly acknowledge how I’m an emergency respondent if I’m missing one of my students.

In the middle of her tirade, my AP said, “Mr. V, what would you do if this student was missing?”

I said, “I think I’d go back for them,” in an understated tone, because I felt my throat clamp up.

People don’t take into account how good teachers can’t and won’t sit idly while their students rot. We’ll push them when they prefer mediocrity. We’re magnanimous and scrupulous all at once about children’s shortcomings. We’re reflecting on how to make ourselves more accommodating to their needs, academically and usually personally, too. In other words, it’s a matter of life and death.

jose, for whom life is not promised …