I overheard a conversation today. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but given my profession, I was immediately drawn in. My son and I were waiting for our late breakfast. We took a sick day off today – due to South Texas weather, which I am publicly blaming, mind you.
I am sitting directly behind a young couple with a small baby boy. They are sporting NFL jerseys – Dallas Cowboys – guess they are still mourning their loss with you, Mr. Ruvalcaba. As the young mother leaves the table for some condiments, I see him get on his phone and make a phone call. The conversation will strike a familiar chord – as we were all there – in those exact GPS coordinates many moons ago. (I landed a job with McDonalds at 17)
“Yes, Hi – was calling to see if you’re hiring? I called yesterday.”
(I can only guess what the other person is asking or suggesting based on his replies)
“No, I don’t have that kind of experience.”
“I only have a GED.”
“No, I haven’t been trained on that. What is that again? What did you call that?”
“I only have 3 days experience as a substitute. I did it for a middle school, but that was a few years back.”
“No, I don’t have the associate.”
“No college, no ma’am.”
“No, no one has trained me on that.”
That last one was the one that got me. I have to admit - I choked a bit. I heard him go through essentially the same conversation during two other calls. I sat there trying my best to not seem too interested. I didn’t want him to see the concern in my eyes. After all, this was his problem. Not mine. Surely, this was a young man who had gone through the education system. He had a fair shot at making something of himself and chose not to. Nonetheless, here he was - sitting at a coffee place – starting his day making cold calls – with a beautiful baby boy by his side.
My heart was screaming at the top of the lungs it has beside it, “I AM A TEACHER!!” “WHAT TRAINING DO YOU NEED??” I felt empowered in that moment to teach him everything I knew – no matter how irrelevant it was to the job he was seeking. But I didn’t. I allowed the voices to convince me otherwise. I ran a few conversations in my head that wouldn’t make my suggestions look too out of place. The “what’s wrong with you” tug was stronger, though. I let it go. I focused on having conversations with my son instead. Ninja turtles were awaitin’.
The struggle left its mark on me, though – couldn’t shake it off all day. Somewhere along the line, someone failed him. He spent years in an educational system without the ability to see into his future. I did the reasonable thing in my head. I accounted for gaps and deficiencies, subtracted personal decisions, added life circumstances – put it all together in a perfect equation. I tried to solve for the proverbial X in different ways – but I kept coming up with the same answer. The classroom failed him. No one capitalized on his strengths. He fell through the cracks. Whatever team he was on, those that were supposed to be rooting for him, ended up being a group of people with no gap integrity. This is the direct result. Here he is - no job, no skills, poor vocabulary – but with his beautiful son by his side.
Fist clenched. Felt responsible. Had never felt this kind of pressure before - a responsibility to up my game before my 6th grade audience. You?