My indulgence is education, but not the education you think.

One of my sixth graders showed me a video that galvanized my vocation as an inner-city Baltimore teacher. It was a sobering reminder that, as a first-year teacher, often the kids teach you more than you teach them.

He showed me Prince EA’s “Student Vs. Teacher” video, an indictment on the education system’s focus on numbers and test-taking. The video urges us to focus on traits like creativity, innovation, and resilience, telling teachers that they have the most important job on the planet.

“Mr. Fan, school feels like a prison,” one of my students said. And my heart sank.

I see the odds my kids face. Some live with no parents, and most living with no fathers. The fact that they show up every day and as consistently as they do speaks wonders to their resilience.

And when my kids go off-topic to speak to their own experiences in the hood, I learn more about how they survive than they learn from a curriculum of texts. They have that strength and resilience in them, and it is our job to awaken it.

Written by

Believer, Baltimore City special ed teacher, and 2:40 marathon runner. Diehard fan of “The Wire,” God’s gift to the Earth. E-mail:

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