this past week i had a very enlightening exchange with a student on my campus. our interactions are quite frequent, and usually predictable. i observe this student out in the hallway during class. i inquire about her frequent wanderings. she responds politely with a big smile, usually, and produces a hall pass. the importance of not missing instructional time is usually brushed aside by her admittance that her grades are fine and that the social reason that drew her out of class is more important and timely. she is not a student who is enrolled in my particular school, yet our exchanges never involve a question of my authority as an adult and a teacher… most students know me as a teacher who is going to say something.
the enlightenment began we i noticed this student sitting and talking on the phone as the last of the crowd of students were being encouraged towards the morning advisory class. i approached her and gave her the look and a shoulder shrug to communicate a, “hey? what’s the deal? walk and talk it to class.” she didn’t really acknowledge my suggestion… i approached the table where she was calmly sitting.
me: who are you talking to?
her: so and so mr. gomez.
me: why are you talking to her? you BOTH are gonna be late.
her: she’s not even here yet mr. g. she still on the bus. she by herself and i gotta make sure she get her safe.
her: com’n mr. she all the way down by the 90’s.
me: she has to cross through some neighborhood sets?
her: (smiling) she gotta walk through the 60s…
at this point i started to walk away, satisfied that she would eventually make her way to class… and then i looked back, realizing exactly what this student was doing. she had stayed behind, risking a tardy, a possible unpleasant exchange with multiple authority figures. she had consciously made a decision to ensure the safe arrival of her friend, no matter what. i instantly thought of how our students implore their navigational and social capital to find their own way in the world… one i often don’t understand.
this student looked backed at me and smiled… “now you get it mr.?”
i think so… though i am always learning.