The 2020 school year was set to begin. Committees across the country argued amongst themselves whether or not it was safe for students in their districts to go back to their schools for in-person learning. One of the many debates was this: “Are kids more at risk of this disease or suffering long-term emotional trauma by staying isolated in their homes?”
It seemed everyone had an opinion, but most people recognized there really was no clear cut ‘right decision’ with what to do for schools. Knowing that I could not control the future; but reminding myself that I could create it, I avoided the drama around this discussion the best I could.
Accepting that I had no say in the matter, I would instead go with the flow…whatever that might be.
Understanding that the Emotional Intelligence program I was being paid to teach was only funded for the first two terms of the school year I racked my brain in an attempt to come up with interesting ways of making an impact with students regardless of whether we would be remote or not. My objective was simple: convince the district to extend the program till the end of the school year. To say I was not feeling stressed over all of this would be a lie.
Last week the announcement was made of our committee’s decision to begin the year remotely, and all educators were told to expect an in-person meeting shortly with their supervisors. I was about to have mine. To discuss ‘expectations and requirements’ according to the email from Principal Sam.
Prior to this meeting I had sent the principal a copy of the week-one article I had written. Attached to it was a set of stated goals I had hoped to focus on in class. There were no ‘national standards’ to consult regarding a course called ‘Emotional Intelligence,’ so really I was simply flying by the seat of my pants. As I sat in the office, I had to hope that what I presented appeared structured and logical. Who knew if my class would go the way I Imagined, but I had to pretend the best I could….
“I don’t get it.”
The principal appeared tired; maybe stressed; maybe upset. Maybe just annoyed by my presence???
Regardless, there was no doubt that the face looking at me across the desk did not appear happy. I was nervous and by no means anticipated our conversation starting like this. The fact that we were both wearing masks and sitting in an empty office made the whole thing feel even more awkward. I had expected some small talk before talking business, but I guess the fact that we were only allotted fifteen minutes to meet in person meant there was no time for subtleties.
“What don’t you get exactly,” I responded; in a tone as non-confrontational as possible. The truth was I really did not have a clue since starting a conversation with such a statement gave me zero information to go on.
Throwing a few pages of paper on the table in front of me I could now see what was being referenced. I could not reach down and grab the papers because ‘person to person contact was not permitted’, but I saw my article titled ‘1% Pirate’ staring up at me, “How exactly does this story of yours tie into the objectives you have set for your class?”
Feeling nervous, I thought for a long second before I spoke, “Part of the class is intended to help kids think creatively and objectively when presented with entertainment in the real world. And of course, discussing the effect social media is having on them is going to be important as well.” This was almost verbatim to what I had written as my objective for the course, and under this pressure seemed to be the best response to the question just now presented to me.
I sat stone faced and prepared for the rebuttal, “It seems to me that you’re simply testing out your creativity on the students?”
After a pause, the dementor continued, “As you know, your friend, Mr. Bernard, pulled many strings to get you into my school.” What seemed like a pre-recorded message went on, “While I appreciate your enthusiasm for what you are trying to do, I am not a big fan of this little experiment of yours. You must understand that I am skeptical of your ability to teach this thing you call emotional intelligence to the students we have here.”
This was a loaded statement, blatantly calling out my own insecurities and throwing them directly in my face. You’re a young white male hoping to teach emotional intelligence (something no one really knows what means), to a school of mostly minorities.
It was now clear that this was not to be a meeting, but instead a lecture. Whatever I wanted to say was not going to change anything. So, I mentally pulled up my big-boy pants and simply prepared for further dumping…
“We did not get to talk much last year given everything that happened, but you must realize that I take my job of getting our students to graduate very seriously. Our program is designed to fill in the many gaps that these kids have had from years of neglect, mis-management, and simple laziness.” I shook my head, maybe muttered a word of understanding, but simply continued to listen to Principal Sam, “Your class is only getting these kids one credit as an elective. With everything we have piled up against us this year-I have to say that filling your class was almost impossible. I’m sure you are aware of this by the size of your roster?”
This made it official. I was hoping that the rosters were still being worked on and that what I was given was simply a temporary snag, but these words confirmed it- I would be teaching a class of only four students. YES, Four!
Much of the rest of the meeting between the principal and I was a blur. Rather than listening I instead spent the remaining time lost in my own head trying to convince myself that having only four students would allow me to better focus on the lessons with the kids I had. (And not that my job was going to be short lived.)
Trying not to panic, a realization hit me: If my class was going to be a success it was crucial that the few students I had bought into what I wanted to do. Which, in turn, made me think about the articles that I would be sharing with them each week.
The first one that would be given to them on Friday, September 11th was now running through my mind as I drove home from the meeting.
I had to wonder…would they get it?
Week 1- (9/11/20) – “1% Pirate”:
“Hey Jose, your Memere went on Ancestry.com and found out that she was 70% French-Canadian, 29% American, and 1% Pirate.”
My dad was sitting on his recliner looking at his phone when he told me this.
‘Memere’ is what we call our grandmother who was born in Canada by the way. I apologize if you know this and the information seems overkill. But, as your teacher in this class there is no better time than now to tell you that I will make no assumptions about the things you may or may not know here. Please bear with me.
Interested by the information told to me by my father I walked up to my room. Ironically, I was in the middle of watching ‘Black Sails;’ a television series about pirates in the early 1700’s. In my opinion the writers of the show did a phenomenal job illustrating why pirates existed back then. The desire of some of these men, and women, in the show to live a life where they were not governed by laws they disagreed with really spoke to me.
In the midst of all the turmoil and conflict across the globe I could relate to wanting to escape, find an island to myself, and create something that I could believe in (without all the killing and stealing of course).
Excited by my newfound genealogy (that is your ancestors’ unique story and your family tree), I took my cellphone out and jumped on Facebook.
I clicked on ‘Add A New Post,’ and began to write:
“Happy Saturday everyone! I’m very excited to tell you all that I found out today that I am 1% Pirate! ARGHHH!!!”
To drive my point home, I added a ‘GIF’ (that is an animated picture) of Johnny Depp in his pirate disguise from his beloved Disney movies.
I then went about my day. Checking my phone of course for peoples’ reactions to my witty post.
One ‘like.’ A few more (Why don’t people ‘love’ my stuff?). A ‘LMAO’ face. Another laughing face. A little later an ‘OMG’ reaction was thrown into the mix. And then…my first ‘comment.’
“U serious bro?”
It was from someone I did not recognize. So, I did some ‘investigating.’
A click here, a click there. I really could not figure out who this person was. He was very outspoken by looking at his posts. Very political. Had opinions about many things. Some things I saw made me laugh, others made me cringe. This person was not shy about making his voice and his opinions known (totally opposite of me). But no pictures of himself.
Not knowing who he was, I still had to respond. He was my ‘friend’ after all- I did not want to offend him. So I carefully constructed a simple response.
“Ya man, Ancestry.com is the bomb!”
A few hours went bye and my post was losing steam. Not many more reactions were being made. At this point I think I had about twenty likes (…but who cared…I wanted more!).
Just when I had stopped checking my phone every ten minutes another ‘comment’ made my phone ‘ding’.
“Are u an idiot? Or is this a joke?”
Who was this guy?
I do my best not to become upset over what I see and hear on social media. In fact, I try to be as ‘uncontroversial’ as possible to avoid becoming emotionally invested. But this guy took my simple post and came back calling me an ‘idiot.’ (twice!) My blood boiled.
Very annoyed, I again clicked ‘reply,’
“No joke. Legit found out that I am 1% Pirate today. Thought it was cool. No need to call me an idiot. Peace Bro ;0)!”
Then it began.
He ‘shared’ my original post (this meant that his followers all saw it). Immediately after, comments started blowing up my phone. A full out Facebook assault was underway, and I was at the center of the attack.
The hits came fast and furiously….
“How stupid…a ‘Pirate!’ LMAO…some people should not be allowed to bread.”
“If Ancestry.com told you to jump off a bridge would you do it? LOL.”
“You’re the reason we need to build the wall!”
“I’m 1% Alien. You don’t see me posting that on Facebook do you?”
There were so many comments I couldn’t believe it. As the day went on I could not help but read each one. After taking a closer look at the original antagonizes profile, I realized that he had over ten-thousand followers. I could not recall when or how I had become this person’s ‘friend’, but none of that mattered at this point. The social media monster had me in his grasp, and I was being eaten alive.
What could I do?
Nothing. A comment from me at this point would have only fueled the fire.
I turned my phone off and went about the rest of my day. I still had yet to understand why everyone made such an issue of me saying that I was 1% Pirate. Was it because proving you are one percent anything was just impossible to prove? Who knew?? Who cared???
Feeling down, frustrated with people and their ability to be so hurtful, I went downstairs for supper. As hard as I tried not to think about it, I could not comprehend how my simple post from this morning had turned my day into such a miserable one.
Dinner was cooking. My mother and father were both working in the kitchen. As I walked in, they were both laughing. Hoping for something to snap me out of my funk I asked, “What is so funny?”
“Memere had surgery yesterday,” she said stirring the pot on the stove.
Not understanding, I responded, “Yeah, so, what’s so funny about that?”
She then grabbed my dad’s phone off the counter. Punched a few buttons. And handed me the phone.
On the phone I saw my Memere. In the photo she was smiling, but something definitely stood out that I was not expecting. She was wearing a black eye-patch over her left eye- she had just had surgery the day before.
I had completely forgot.
“One Percent Pirate…”
Week 1- Question For Reflection:
Is social media uniting or dividing humanity?