It's safe to say that teaching high school in the Bronx could make anyone pretty jaded. So it's not surprising that Mr. Babylon says he'd never cried about any of the insurmountable problems his students faced. That is, until the day he confronted a student without an ID card.
I’m pretty sure Jorge lives in a shelter. I know that for awhile last year he had been sleeping in a stairwell until some man took him in under what I can only assume were not the most wholesome of conditions. This all came to light last year sometime after he set the fire, so, hopefully, somebody got him into a shelter after that. I really don’t know. He still smells terrible.
“It costs three dollars to get an ID?” I hadn’t known that. I left unspoken the second half of the question, “and you don’t have three dollars?”
He nodded, and went back to screwing around with his friend, and I went back to helping the other kids with their worksheet.
When class ended I called Jorge over and told him if he wanted an ID I would take him right then and get one for him. He followed me up the stairs and through the halls in silence.
Near the metal-detectors I found the desk where the ID photos are taken and as quietly as possible told the school-aides sitting there that Jorge needed an ID but didn’t have the money.
“Oh yeah, right!” one of the women snorted. “Please. He doesn’t have three dollars!? Hah! I know this kid, he and his friend were in the office the other day cursing at the secretary. He’s playing games. Playing games.”
“Wha? I no have ID, I need…” Jorge blurted.
“He lives in a shelter,” I stepped in front and quietly interjected. “He’s not playing games.”
“Oh, we know these kids, it’s all a game to them…”
I stuck my three dollars in the woman’s face. I couldn’t listen to her shit. I'm sure she deals with some real ingrates on a daily basis, but she couldn’t stop power-tripping for thirty seconds to help out a homeless teenager, because he lacked manners?
Finally, one of them grudgingly took the money, handed Jorge a printout, and told him to come back the next day for the ID. I said thanks, none too friendly mind you, then patted Jorge on the shoulder and walked away.
As one commenter on Mr. B's site points out, "REAL teaching is busting through roadblocks for kids, like what you did for J."