When I was in pharmacy school, I had done a stint of tutoring to make a little extra cash on the side. As most of you know, I went to school in Stockton, California which isn’t the most upscale city (at all). During that time, I had the privilege to tutor an innocent little boy, hardly 8 years old in math and science. The poor kid was failing almost every class due to poor home and social circumstances. Broken family, a not very educated single mother, crowded/distracting living condition, and two younger siblings to help look after. Environment didn’t help either. He was in a poorly functioning school, and his peer company was not motivating.
His mother didn’t have the most privileged background, and she was well aware of that fact. However, the one thing she was, was loving. She didn’t want her son to live the same life that she did so as fate would have it – she found me and asked me to tutor her son.
Fast forward a couple months of tutoring, during which I saw the young boy flourish intellectually – I suddenly got a call one day from the tearful mother about how she had been called in for a parent-admin meeting at school. Her son had gotten his first A on an exam (I thought – “Yay! Tutoring paid off!)…
…..and now admin was going to suspend him for cheating (my mind – WHAT?!).
The little boy had come to trust me as another safe adult figure in his life, so when I saw him that evening, I asked him to tell me the truth, “did you cheat?”
“NO! I swear! I really do know the material!!” he cried back.
“I know you do,” I responded, “And I’m going to come with your mom to that parent admin meeting tomorrow”.
The next day after my own classes had ended, I went to the meeting. I defended my little student explaining to admin that he had been tutored. He had really learned the material. If they thought he had cheated they could give him a new test, right now in that very room. No. No. And No. They refused to believe him. His mom. Me. They only wanted to believe that he cheated – without any proof mind you – so that’s what they made “fact”. Instead of listening to even me , they chose to take the following cheap route instead of a more intellectual argument: “You’re not the boy’s mother, please leave now this isn’t your business”.
Of course they would kick me out – the adult on the boy’s side with enough of an education and background to put up a good fight. The doctorate candidate. The mother was frightened by default, and more so when they made me leave. She didn’t have voice of her own, and when I left, she had lost the only voice she had (as she later told me). The little boy was finally starting to grow wings and learn how to fly… but before he could – they clipped them.
The boy was suspended for getting an A. Imagine that.
A week later the mother texted me, “we’re going to discontinue tutoring”.
“I’m sorry to hear that” I replied with a heavy heart. I knew why, and the response came as expected.
“We’re extremely grateful for all your help, but it’s better he fail out of school than get in trouble… people like us… we like to lay low.. you know? Stay off the radar”.
To this day those words haunt me. I have no idea where this little boy is today, of course no longer a little boy but a young man. An adult. Sometimes I wonder where he is, what he’s doing. Did he find a way out of that world… or did he get caught up in it? If didn’t get out… how would his world have been different if those hateful, undeserving to be called so “educators” had…..
Just. Given. Him. A. Chance.