I was sitting inside of my reading room/woman cave reading listening to the dull roar of the highway when my reading was disturbed by children talking and breaking glass outside. I put down my book and proceeded to look out of the window and observe what was going on. I continued to hear the children playing around on that side of the building and I went to the kitchen to get the screwdriver to unscrew the safety locks that prevent me from opening up the window. When I finally got the locks off and removed the screen, I witness a young man I recently met in the community playing a dangerous game of running across the highway. I then witness a young boy, no more than 7 following in his friends footsteps doing the same thing.
I yelled to the child from the window that he needed to get his butt back across safely and told him what he was doing was dangerous. When he made it safely across the street, I proceeded to scold the young children (there were 4 in total), telling them that playing by the highway was dangerous and they had NO BUSINESS on this side of the building. I told them they needed to go back around where it was safe. The young man I knew already (his name was Jason, 13) challenged me, saying they could play anywhere they wanted. I threatened him and told him if he didn’t leave, I’d call the cops and have them handle it. He thought I was bluffing, and I started dialing.
Fortunately, I ended up calling my co-teacher (who happens to be #9 on my speed dial) instead and proceeded to tell her the story which got them scared enough to run. I hung up the phone with her and told her I’d tell her the rest tomorrow.
I then called my Mom, who calmed me down as I was yelling and screaming at how stupid of a game these children were playing and began to wonder where are the parents to tell them right from wrong. My mother, worried about my own safety scolded me about scolding the children about my decision.
Then there was a knock on my door. I look through the peephole and 3 out of the 4 boys were standing there. I hung up with my mother, but her last words to me was “Don’t cuss at those kids, be careful.” The children proceeded to say, “Ms. Best, we’re sorry for playing outside by the window.” I looked at them, and told them that I was not yelling at them for playing, but for the dangerous game that could have costed them their lives. I gave them all a hug and let them know that I care about them so much that I would hate if something happened to them. They hugged back, understandingly and we proceeded to have a conversation outside of my apartment door.
One boy, Donnell, aged 10, then asked if I had anything he could snack on, like an orange. I gave them the last of my oranges, started the peeling for them by request, and had to teach them to say thank you when someone does something kind for you. The 7 year old (whose name escapes me) asks me if he could have any water to wash his fruit down. I didn’t have any clean cups, so I told them to wait outside the door while I washed some out. I listened in on their conversation. They said: “Ms. Best is so nice. We don’t even deserve it after what we did.” When I returned with my water, I reiterated that I never want to see them playing those games again, nor did I want to see those orange peelings, and I gave them a bag to put them in. Donnell thanked me for the cold water, finished his, and he handed me back my cup. Ultimately, I sent them all off with a few warnings, and they repeatedly thanked me for my hospitality.
None of those children are children that I teach.
Teaching isn’t one of those jobs that ends at 5pm. It continues way beyond my contracted hours. Sometimes, we take risks with our lessons without knowing all the consequences that could occur as a result (they could’ve came to my door with a gun). However, if we pass up a moment of teaching, the child may never grow, learning from their own mistakes. We can’t assume that children know right from wrong if no one teaches them to recognize the difference. Clearly, no one taught that 7 year-old that hanging out in the streets was wrong, but I guarantee if something happened to that child, a parent might wish they did. I think I grew more today as a teacher than the one year I actually spent in my classroom. I thank my impromptu students for that, and I hope to continue to forge relationships with the children of my community outside of the classroom as well.