Back in October, I wrote about the Angry Young Black Male who felt so alienated from his fellow classmates in his Comp II class that he considered never coming back.
Fortunately, he did come back to class, although he never formed any connection whatsoever with his classmates. He sat in a corner workstation (the class was taught in a computer lab classroom), avoided eye-contact, and pretty much kept a low-profile.
Even with all that, I refused to overlook him in class. During lab days (when the class individually worked on their papers and other students didn’t need my assistance), I worked one-on-one with him to get him to care about his research paper topic, “Don’t Blame Gangsta Rap.” He wrote it. During the Analyzing Literature unit, I listened to him — and therefore, the class also listened to him — as he responded to the assigned poems, especially Hardy’s poem, “The Man He Killed,” over which he eventually wrote his literary analysis.
I refused to give up on him this semester, and, thus, forced him not to give up on himself. And because of that, happily, he completed Composition II… and passed.
“Thank you for puttin’ up with me this semester,” he said, as he swung by my office earlier this week to check on his papers. He had this expression that, from the nose up, was all knitted-brow-wary suspicion and, from the nose-down was tentative-grimace-like smile.
“No problem. You’re good at this.” I pointed at his papers.
“Nah, nah –” he started, with a dismissive head-shake, as if wondering if I was bs-ing him.
I cut him off. “No. Really. You’re good.”
And, for the first time this semester, I saw a real smile. Then he left my office.
Maybe — just maybe — he believed me when I treated him like there was a place for him in college. Maybe — just maybe — he now believes in himself, that he really does belong in college, that he’s better than the violence-filled side of town that he grew up in and currently lives.
Maybe. Just maybe.
Now back to grading for me.