“To be a true thug doesn’t mean wearing ‘bling’, listening to rap and talking ‘black’. Being a gangsta isn’t superficial. To be a true thug means you haven’t had it good your whole life, and you intend to change that, and get out of the ghetto if that’s where you are, you do whats right, you don’t take “stuff” from anyone, and stand up for your friends and don’t let them take “stuff” from anyone! You don’t have to be a stereotypical ‘gangsta’ to be a thug, a skater can be a thug, a nerd can be a thug, a hick can be a thug, a prep can be a thug, and old man can be a thug! So forget your stupid stereotypes and thinking that everybody has to fit into one group, and be labeled. And i’ll tell you what…Dang it all to h.e.double hockey sticks, it feels good to be a gangster!” ~ Urban Dictionary
(I took some liberty to change some of the terminology in the above definition of ‘thug’. I didn’t feel the foul language was warranted.)
…and an educator can be a thug. I’ve worked with teenagers for the entirety of my career. I can not tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Hey Mr. Stevens! How’s the thug life treating you?” Of course these students are trying to be funny in asking me such a ridiculous question. Except for one occurrence I had early in my career. “Yo Stevens. Let me holla’ at ya big dog. Why you creepin’ on my grade homey?” My immediate answer to him was, “Why am I creeping? Well, it’s probably because you didn’t turn in your essay, esse?” I guess I felt the need to answer a thug with thug. He didn’t appreciate that too much. Although, I did get this self-proclaimed gang banger to smile. He responded, “Aight, aight. I feel ya. Mad respect (then beat his chest two times and gave me the peace symbol). Maybe I should’ve sat him down and asked how his English class was going. But, conversations like this and other experiences got me thinking a little about my daily “routine”. Here are some examples from the last few years.
An extremely upset dad walks in to the office demanding to see me, and won’t take no for an answer. He wanted to know why I wrote his daughter up for cheating. “Well you see, sir. She cheated.” He didn’t like that answer. I proceeded to show him evidence, how she cheated, and let him know that she admitted to cheating. Feeling pretty good about my “principaling”, he stated, “Because you labeled her a cheater, she will never trust another man for the rest of her life!” Before he left, I said, “Then you better be sure to give her a reason to trust in you, right enabler…I mean, dad?!” I didn’t really say that. But I sure as heck thought of saying it!
I wrote up this young man for being extremely mean and rude to one of his classmates. Mama-bear comes screaming in to the office demanding justice. A young lady had recently lost her mom to cancer. The young man looks at her and says, “Are you sure you want to go there? Well at least I have a mom!” After explaining the series of events, over-protective helicopter mom had the audacity to declare, “I don’t see what’s wrong?! My son asked her for permission to say it.” Probably the first time I used the phrase “Are you kidding me?!” in conversation with a parent. Yup, that’s right ma’am. Don’t hold your son accountable for his actions. Have a nice day.
So this young man brings alcohol on campus, drinks it, and shares it with his friends. When I proceeded to ask him what was in the bottle, he said, “Cayenne pepper water.” “Is that right? Where do they sell that?” I asked. “Oh, I didn’t buy it. You see, I was getting ready for school, and I knocked over the cayenne pepper on the counter, and some of it fell in to my water bottle.” Riiiiiiiight. And so you decided that it tasted good, and wanted to bring it to school and share with your friends. Oh by the way, you smell like alcohol. Want to change your story?
Alcohol. Drugs (possession/use/sales). Sex on campus. Sexting and Texting. Cheating. Lying. Fighting. Bullying. White Power/Racism. Death/suicide (parents/students/family members). School lock down with potential gunman on campus, resulting in a student having to use the trash can for “#2”. Power outage. Swarm of bees. Police arrests. Fire department. Paramedics. Guns and threats of school shootings. Expulsions, Suspensions, and Saturday School.
I say again…I didn’t choose the Ed life. The Ed life chose me.
I can not proclaim that I’ve seen it all, but I feel I’ve come pretty close as to what can happen on a school campus. In between it all, I come to school prepared to educate. When that happens, the thug life serves me pretty well. A day in the life of an educator is never, ever mundane. By God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy do I continue to do what I do.
And I will continue creepin’ on yo grade my nizzle. It what I do. WORD! Mad respect, Dawg. Peace out homey!
* This post was written as part of a blogging challenge based upon the book ‘642 Things To Write About’ by The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.