RealJobs: Juan Concepcion

Juan Concepcion’s work day on Tuesday, February 9, 2010.

These days, with the economy in sway, I find my thoughts drifting back in time to my “old life” when I was a young teacher in Connecticut. I wanted to change the world … one lesson at a time … I loved my students … I remember how fun it was to to deal with their daily “issues,” all the while fighting to squeeze in some of the required social studies curriculum I was being paid to teach. Yep; my kids were beautiful … and they had so many issues … But these weren’t just any issues. They were the types of issues that any caring teacher loves to tackle and any respectable society should expect a teacher to welcome with open arms … So many of my students were poor, hungry, [hyper-]active and, without question, brilliant in every way … “Are you paying attention? Nope; I’m starving. When’s lunch today?” … I remember finding it amusing that some thought I had absolutely no idea what it was like to be in their shoes – i.e., poor and hungry … It never clicked that I had grown up in Washington Heights in NYC (then dubbed the “Coke Capital” of the Northeast … and am not talking soda pop as in Pepsi’s main competitor) or that I was raised single-handedly by a working mother, working in a factory and doubling at night as a CNA, or that I had been an unwilling witness to more state brutality in the streets than I care ever to talk about … “But, Mr. C, you speak like a white boy … You sound nerdy … sup with that?” All good questions … questions … questions … I hated leaving the classroom but I couldn’t let myself not see what law school opportunities would bring for my family. In September 2003, I stopped wondering whether I would regret having traded in all my chalk and a blackboard for a Lexis password and a Blackberry … it was time to find out … When you come from the kind of place where I lived, hesitation is literally deadly … you wait – the door closes … hopelessness grabs you …

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