It’s 1995, the year Timothy McVeigh was made infamous for the Oklahoma City bombing. This rattles America and CNN won’t stop talking about it. But, you’re 15 maybe 16 and these things tend to go in one ear and out the other. It’s not that you don’t care it happened, it actually freaks you out. Death? Oh god. The problem is that you just can’t get that song out of your head. The one that goes “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” and then ends with “that’s why I know my life is out of luck, fool” which is pretty much every white kid’s favourite line because it’s so hardcore (especially the word ‘fool’). Anyway, I think you know what I’m getting at.
‘Dangerous Minds’ became the modern day ‘To Sir with Love’. Michelle Pfeiffer proves she’s legit by using self-defence moves on one of her students to impress her tough, smartass, gangster students. We all know and remember this scene vividly because it was in the trailer. When it happens at the theatre, the audience all of a sudden gets all ‘thug’ and start to snap their fingers with the teenagers in the movie. Shieeeeet, that white, blonde, getting on the old side, skinny bitch, Michelle Pfeiffer, is a mother fucking badass. But, do you know what I say to that? Step aside Michelle Pfeiffer.
I am the mother fucking thug whisperer.
That’s my real life, that’s my classroom. It might not be inner-city New York City but I get students who are really tough in both attitude and appearance in Brampton. My students are: drug dealers, ‘probationaries’, on house arrest , former gang members, and posers of ‘the scene’ which can be worse than those actually in the scene. I don’t know when I got used to being glared at and basically told to fuck off with body language. Furthermore, I don’t know when it stopped intimidating me. OK, I’ll admit it, sometimes it still does but I can’t let it show because I’m ‘the teacher’. But, I can sweet talk the toughest ‘thug’, charm the hardest ‘gangster’, and eventually make them laugh. And, I don’t need to use cheap tactics like self defence moves and hardcore language.
I’ve come to realize that many of these students first and foremost lack confidence. This is why they are putting up such a front. Their image of being tough and ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude are what have gotten them through life thus far. It has been ingrained in their personality and they don’t know how to ‘be’ anything else. Their image is so important that I have had showdowns with many of these students just because they can’t be seen as weak – especially not in front of their peers and definitely not because of the nerdy, somewhat authoritative teacher. Never mind the fact that she’s a female, 4’11”, wears glasses, and regularly says corny jokes.
I just need to get into their souls, pick my battles, and show interest. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Getting into their souls: 1. Respect building. Call them out on their shit and speak frankly with them. They know they’re being dicks. You just need to let them know that the situation is going to be a headache for both of you if the unwanted behaviour continues. 2. Always give your thug positive reinforcement and tell them that they are intelligent, have great things to say, and that you really like having them around. Be genuine about this. They have a hard time trusting people so don’t fuck around with their feelings.
Pick your battles: Are your thugs constantly on their cell phones or smelling like weed? Well, at least they’re showing up on time or even at all. Don’t pick on the small stuff because you’ll lose them on the big stuff. You have to show you’re on their side first before they can start stepping over to yours.
Show interest: This is probably the most important along with giving your thug positive reinforcement. Talk to them about their lives and ask them what they want to do with their future. Maybe they’ve never thought about their future and now you can inspire them a bit. You’re so pissed off about them dealing your kids drugs. Well, fucking give them other options!
Whoa, that got a little serious there. But, it’s so easy to fear thugs and gangsters because the media tells us that they are angry people, carry guns, and quite frankly, they do look extremely scary. But, they are just misunderstood. Kevin and Kalvin were probably two of my scariest and most challenging students – super defiant, threatened lives, and maintained a death stare on their faces with ease. I had them at different times but later found out they are cousins. When they see me, they smile and want to talk. Yes, even gangsters smile, even to authority, and even to white little midgets like me.
I need my own movie or reality TV show. Any producers out there?