In one of my classes this semester sits an Angry Young Black Male (AYBM). Having taught at an Historically Black College/ University (HBCU) and also, at the HBCU, confronting a would-be rapist, I felt no threat coming from my current AYBM. Yes, he listens to gangsta rap just before class (but turns it off when class starts), often has AYBM opinions during class discussions — but, hey, I’m teaching Argumentation, so it’s not horribly inappropriate — and sometimes steps out of the classroom for reasons unknown. And, yes, I did make him angry enough earlier this semester that he left the classroom and was gone for a week, but then he came by my office and we talked things through.
But I wasn’t expecting, on my way to class this afternoon, to be called into an office by two campus police officers and seeing one of my other students, a Non-Angry Young Black Male, and a counselor, talking about the AYBM who verbally intimidated my other student just because he asked that the gangsta rap music be turned down.
So that got dealt with. But I’m at a quandary of how to handle my AYBM, who now doesn’t want to come back to the class anymore. “I can’t have a run-in with the police, Miss. I can’t have that, on top of everything else I gotta deal with,” he said to me after class.
I’m at a quandary because AYBM has a good brain in his head, writes well, and has a heart, even though, just listening to him, it’s been beat, battered, and scarred all over due to whatever he’s keeping within himself. And I’m not forcing him to tell me. God knows I can respect a man trying to deal with his own demons.
But I want him to do well because I can see the potential for him to do good things. But he is so ANGRY. And I fear that his anger has built a wall around him so thick and so high that nothing — and I mean nothing — will reach him unless someone reaches in there with compassion and understanding. I can’t extend that, unless he comes to class.
I guess what I’m saying is that today, I’m feeling just how little a teacher can do for a fellow human being.
I ain’t happy about that.