It is a privilege to be part of a conversation when kids imagine living into better selves. When I witness a student speaking about the trials of shedding their old skins for new, it reminds me both how difficult it can be and how liberating. I became acquainted with JT through the Boys & Girls Club Positive Alternative Program a few years ago, and since beginning my role at the high school, reconnected with him in the halls.
Earlier this week, JT was waiting in the Advisement Center, standing amid tables and chairs, his face a mass of concentration. “I’m trying to do the right thing” he said. He had been witness to a theft, and his proximity and former friendship with the guilty party had implicated him too. He was angry that he was suspected of being an accomplice. JT related that he had been sent out of the classroom for getting into an argument with another student, and that it was there he began talking to the student who stole an item from another student’s locker. Once he saw what his friend was doing, he walked away, not wanting to be involved. After he told the story of what happened, he paused for a moment, then said, “but you know, I shouldn’t have even been there in the first place if I had been doing what I should.” “I shouldn’t have argued with that girl and gotten sent out into the hall.” JT spoke about really trying to change his behavior so that he could focus on school and stop being written up. He talked about how hard it was to act right when friends who have known you aren’t acting right.
JT was experiencing the pain of living into his newly imagined skin, and I was moved at how clearly he could articulate the landscape of his struggle, what some teachers have called the Moral Imagination. . I also knew that I would try to be an ally as he tried to put his knowledge into practice, understanding and knowing all too well, how difficult it is to forgive ourselves when we fail to reach what our imagination extends to us.