In his book, The Other Wes Moore, the author observes, ”
“There’s a term in the hood..an ice grille. A look of blank hostility that masks two intense feelings-the fire evoked by grille (which is also slang for face), and the cold of the ice. But the tough facade is just a way to hide a deeper pain or depression that kids don’t know how to deal with. (pg 28).”
As a social worker, I learned firsthand how depression, a persistent sadness looked different in kids than adults. Met with apparent indifference, apathy, crossed arms, narrowing eyes, I didn’t have the skills to chip away at the armor that surrounded many of my students-both boys and girls. As a young teacher, I too put up defenses, played the blame game. Spending the majority of my nights frustrated, misunderstood, probably similar to how my students were feeling-with a teacher who didn’t know what the hell she was doing.
Teacher and student were doing this masked dance of blame, accountablity. The chaotic mess of gangs, drugs, violence, and sadness was creeping into my room. School was not necessarily a refuge. School wasn’t always safe. School wasn’t always humanizing, motivating, engaging. I offer up these words from Kanye West as I am reminded of what it means to teach in urban neighborhoods, any neighborhood. Working with kids means equipping them with skills and strategies-of course. However, I am not in the business of cultivating robotic like-minded young adults. Mix skills and strategies with desire, passion, thirst. Intelligence, just like passion for school is a learned behavior. Modeling thinking, posing questions ignites a sense of wonder in all of us. Hopefully sparking a soul:
Hey, teacher, teacher tell me how do you respond to students
And refresh the page and restart the memory?
Respark the soul and rebuild the energy?
“Young boys are more likely to believe in themselves if they know that there’s someone, somewhere.. To carry that burden These forks in the road can happen so fast for young boys; within months or even weeks, their journeys can take a decisive and possibly irrevocable turn…”