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A Teacher’s Touch, For The Hardest To Reach

May 15th, 2017 · 21 Comments · News and Events

Alex Torres, a teacher at Central High School, composed this poignant commentary about the realities of a classroom following the police-involved shooting death of teenager Jayson Negron. The commentary first appeared in the CT Post.

Today I didn’t teach my curriculum and instead had a talk with every class about what happened last night.

The kids sat and heard what I had to say and didn’t offer much response. Many knew the boy who died but were confused about the circumstances, which I filled in with the little that I know.

I spoke to one student in particular who admitted to me previously that he wouldn’t be surprised if he died on the streets of Bridgeport.

love my kids more than I love my job. And as a teacher, I have to put my students in front of my profession. So I had an extremely candid conversation with him after class.

When the rest of kids left and we had the room to ourselves, I said: “You and I both know that could have been you last night.”

“Yep,” he said

We proceeded to talk about his life. We spoke about how he is a 15-year-old boy with no one to care for him, no one to go to when times are tough and he needs consolation.

We spoke about how he has been taking care of himself since he was 12 by working on the street and getting involved with gangs. How he sleeps at his relative’s house occasionally but just on a mattress in a room he called the computer room.

He comes to school each day as a survivor, but he can’t conform his reality to the rigorous academic life that we are trying to reach him through.

So, he is a behavior problem and easily labeled a bad kid, probably with bad parents, and no direction. But he isn’t. He is, objectively speaking, incredibly intelligent. He thinks differently than others, is charismatic and interesting.

So why should a kid like that have to end up a victim of violence in Bridgeport? Why is he so willing to accept his fate with complete resignation, when he has so much value as a person? Why aren’t we doing more to reach these kids?

I don’t have answers. But if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s how I need to stay here, regardless of the salary and the constant stress.

These kids need help and I need to be bold enough to reach the ones who are hardest to reach. If you read this whole post, you must care enough to do something too.

School-based programs need volunteers, money, support, etc. I don’t have the kind of information on how you can help, but you have to actually get out there and do something.

All kids in Bridgeport are good kids. Some are just victims of their situations, which make them appear to be less than that. They all have value, they all matter, and we need to start treating these kids better, not resigning their fates to bad parenting, or lack of motivation, or anything else.

They are children who need the support that you can offer.

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21 Comments so far ↓

  • Ed Davies

    Very well said. No matter the circumstance, we all should mourn the senseless loss of a teenager’s life. His bad decisions that evening were a product of a lifetime of neglect.

  • John Marshall Lee

    What an expressive statement by Alex Torres who took time out to listen to one teen-age student and respond, after listening to a class of similar students make a statement about a current public tragedy. Please continue your journey in this manner, Alex.

    How to make sense of this? Can you do so, without putting the entire blame on someone else? What is your role in the community? What are you waiting for?

    Where do each of us intersect with the young, or the fearful, or the poorly served, and know that those personal decisions by each person in the future can be more positive for them and for all of us, when we are connected?
    Do you go to a specific school and classroom to read to the young and encourage READING so it will become a well developed skill to use in their future lives?
    Do you coach sports in the community and are regularly present to teach skills and provide an ear to what is going on in the lives of youth?
    Do you volunteer to meet through School Volunteers Association, Big Brother/Sister or a church program or other to regularly mentor older youths in the community who may have need or desire to be around an adult who cares, so that you may bear witness of an alternative adult perspective that perhaps will lead to wider choices in the future for said youth?

    Are you a part of community governance or service and know your responsibility, live up to it regularly with courage, and can measure what positive is happening in the community because of your activity, voice and/or vote?

    Or, do you sit,kind of hopeless, disposed to the negative or see the status quo as determined and enduring…..not worth your effort? Time will tell.

    • Frank Gyure

      JML..I hear what you are saying and I am sure that others here..Hear..it as well. But let’s look at volunteering communities. What is the socio-economic make-up of communities where you see a larger percentage of volunteering. My theory is that we will see greater amounts of volunteering in communities that have higher family incomes and where people have more disposable time. This does not mean that your call should fall on deaf ears. But,my sense of the Bridgeport Community,is many people who are fighting the good fight on a daily,short term basis. Too many people feel unable to give anymore. In fact,more and more people are needing help. Hopefully,those who can give time will respond and give back to the community. God bless those who can give back. God help those who need help.

      • John Marshall Lee

        One way of volunteering is to commit to spending one hour weekly with a youth? Who can do that? People who blog on OIB? Time will tell.

        • Frank Gyure

          Twenty Thousand hours. Is it achievable?

          • Frank Gyure

            I got involved with the BOE because of that boycott thing. Are you asking me to get involved with the schools again?

          • Frank Gyure

            Several months ago, I read an article about schools which are placed in difficult urban situations. I believe the local was New York City. I have questions about comparing anything in NYC to anything in BPT. However,these “schools” were not called schools. They were called “children centers.” It shows all the extra efforts that sre needed for urban school systems. When I read the article,I thought that this is what the Bridgeport School System(more importantly,what BPT students need). My sense is that it would be very expensive but the article indicated that success was being generated.

          • John Marshall Lee

            Frank,
            Looking for reasons to do something or to avoid facing up? Lots of programs out there, mentoring, athletics, church social, tutoring, arts and cultural,for example. Lots of people working out there already, also.
            Find something that can keep you interested and share who you are with someone younger….for their advantage. The community and you will ultimately benefit. Time will tell.

          • Frank Gyure

            JML..I respect what you are saying.

  • Maria Pereira

    Well said, Alex.

    There are NO throwaway kids. Clearly, Mayor Ganim and our 20 City Council members don’t understand that.

  • Frank Gyure

    Eloquent words from Alex Torres. Alex can also be heard on social media pages looking for items for his classroom so that his classroom becomes a sanctuary for his students. The challenge is that we need hundreds of Alex Torres’s.

  • Frank Gyure

    Since we are on the issue(s) of seeking change in Bridgeport,can OIB do a little research and find out who/how many people have filed paperwork to run for City Council this November? Or should “concerned citizens/residents” find this information easy enough in City Hall and which Department. Town Clerk?? If just anyone goes to the appropriate department and asks, will this information be willingly given? Thank you.

  • Donald Day

    Unfortunately this kids story is the story of many young kids in Bridgeport. People wonder how can these young males can commit crimes, sell drugs and kill each other, its simple. When you feel you have no future what the hell do you care about your present? What’s equally troubling is how after only 15 years of life these young kids can feel, think and believe that they have no future and that their only outcome in their young life is death or jail.

    Someone needs to start to give these young kids some hope because if not we all will be the recipient of their hopelessness. Mayor Ganim and the city council, do you hear this?

    • John Marshall Lee

      Donald,
      Did you happen to read what I wrote? What’s your regular “investment plan” for the future of youth in the City this week? One youth, one hour per week during the school year? A class of younger students to read to? A bunch of aspiring young neighborhood athletes (with huge and unrealistic dreams, but dreams nevertheless who need some time to get bodies and minds into maturity) to develop skills, attitude, and team spirit?

      You care I know but share what’s up and how you intersect, please. Time will tell.

  • Lisa Parziale

    This amazing teacher, Alex Torres is an example of the blessing of having parents that nurtured him to frame his character, compassion, desire to give of himself, and his selfless nature. Not all kids have that in their lives, and some do but squander it themselves. It’s a moving account of what could be if there were more teachers and parents that create a perfect opportunity and chance for our kids. I know how difficult it is, and I wish I knew what I could do to help in any way.

  • Pete Spain

    Alex Torres’ essay is a clear light beaming out of the darkness of last week’s tragic events.

    I appreciate his important work and his example and his challenge to us all.

    Many good, decent people and not-for-profits helping kids in Bridgeport in meaningful and measurable ways, such as, Groundwork Bridgeport (to name just one): https://www.groundworkbridgeport.org/

    Always more to do, room to grow for the greater good.

  • Steven Auerbach

    I admire Alex Torres’s commitment and love for his job. He is fortunate that he at least is dealing with students that can carry on a conversation and share insight into what many of us know,

    It should be mandatory that members of the BOE spend time in the classroom to see first hand what teachers have to deal with as opposed to making decisions without first hand information of the problems in the classroom.
    I have met a few Principals that will not take responsibility for students bad behavior. The goal is less suspensions and keep promoting students to the next grade.

    I think in the case of Mr. Torres. He will definitely touch many lives. Students may in fact look back at him and see him as a teacher that changed the course of their lives. On the other hand, I have met many tewchers and Principals that will be easily forgotten. It is sad. Do teachers, like Alex Torres get rewarded for their outstanding commitment? No!

    I know that JML has given his time freely and has made a change in a students life. I know a student that he mentors. I have freely given my time at Bassick High School. Working with students as well as spending weekends doing gardening to find out months later all of those efforts were a waste. There was a year – a few years ago that the gardening / flowers were spectacular, thank you Home Depot!

    The Bridgeport school system should have motivational speakers regularly.

    Alex Torres is a cut above the rest and the schol system needs to identify more teachers of his caliber and reward them!

  • Donald Day

    JML, until I get a response to this don’t bother ask me anything else and expect any answer or respect.

    What don’t I understand you asked JML? How about “Black and white comments are off the mark in this situation, regardless of what OIB’s guardians of colored issues have to say.”
    So you make reference of Ron and myself as the guardians of Colored Issues so may I ask just what colored issues are we guardians of, Red issues, Green issues or maybe Blue issues?

    Now I’ll know you’ll try to clean up this response with some Ivy League white jargon, but the fact is your comment reeked of bigotry and was demeaning to every black person who reads its content. As much as you think you know about black people and our condition you still haven’t learned the basics, that which is offensive to us a people and what white people can’t say under any circumstances. Joking or otherwise JML, your characterization of Ron and myself as arbiters of Colored (Black) issues offends a large segment of Black America that fought long and hard not to be called Colored and now you are a white member of the NAACP in 21st century America still referring to two black males as Colored. Shame on you and if the NAACP doesn’t reprimand you, then shame on them too.

    I just found my membership card and I’ll be at that meeting demanding an apology to all those blacks, living and dead who find being referred to as Colored offensive, in the 21st century.

    I’ve always wondered why you always came to the rescue of the hate filled racist and vitriolic speech of Andy and Tom and now I know that birds of a feather flock together.

    For you to characterize Black issues as Colored Issues is an affront to all that is decent and moral and a supposedly intelligent educated man would never do that. I am writing a letter to the National NAACP office with a copy of this post with a copy of my NAACP membership card to express my outrage at his characterization of Colored Issues.

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