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Bumping Your Head

May 15, 2013
I look at this photo of my great uncle and think of how much going to war must have changed him.

I look at this photo of my great uncle and think of how much going to war must have changed him. We all have events in our lives that shake us to the core, that make us see the world in a new light.

We had a meeting last night for incoming students for next year at our high school in New Orleans. There was a really tall, broad-shouldered kid who was sitting in front of me with 2 pig tails on the crown of his head, the rest of his twists of hair sticking out the back of his head like his fist was clenched on an electric fence.

I introduced myself. He did as well. He had a tender voice, a bit sheepish. Hunched over.

He said he’d be a 10th grader next year. Well, he said, he was 17, but he had recently been incarcerated so he was a little older, but he was gonna be in 10th anyway.

It always stuns me when our students use the word incarcerated.

I told him I’d be his teacher, and I asked him if he liked English.

Yes. He likes to write, and he can rap too. His grades haven’t always been great. He slowly listed his classes and grades one by one. He wants to play basketball. We talked about GPA requirements, classes he’d be taking, opportunities for activities, and coming back to school after being in jail. He said he was worried about it. That he wanted to do well.

I ask him if spending time out of school, being incarcerated, made him change his feelings about school.

He said yeah. I wanna do what’s right. People always told me that it takes bumping your head to get it on straight. I bumped my head pretty hard. But it’s on straight now.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 20, 2013 9:08 pm

    I look forward to hearing about his successes in your class next year! I also wish that I could sit in on your classes and observe you. I would have loved to be at that meeting and see how you talk to kids and how you respond when they tell you things. I think I could learn from you too!

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