The other day, I found two boys hanging out in a small alcove in front of our school health clinic. I can always relate when I see kids hanging out and not wanting to be bothered– as a teenager, this was all I wanted. But now is now, and I have a job to do. “Hi gentlemen, nice to see you both. I’ll need you to go back to your classes now.”
“We have passes,” they said politely. Each handed me an official pass to the health clinic, waiting for me to profusely apologize to them and allow them to keep hanging out.
“Great, thanks,” I said. “The health clinic doesn’t open for 10 minutes. You can come wait in my office while I work so you’re not in the hallway.”
There was an awkward silence. “Oh, OK. Thanks.” I had taken away their privacy.
They sat down at the large table in my office. Still awkward. I went to my desk and began responding to emails. As I typed, the boys’ conversation started again, haltingly, and then relaxed into a flow as they sensed I was barely listening. They talked about soccer, and then about life back in their home countries, Albania and Pakistan.
“Yeah, bro,” said the boy from Pakistan, “When I was a kid, we bought these baby goats and I played with them. I played, like, all the time. And then, they killed them to eat during Ramadan. I didn’t know we were going to eat them. I couldn’t sleep for like, three days.”
Five minutes later, the boys left. I had gotten a glimpse of a world I didn’t know about. It was one of those moments when the forward nature of work paused, and I experienced the richness and complexity of the humans ages 14-20 in my school.
Photo credit: Marcela McGreal, Creative Commons License