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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 14 2013

Beliefs Without Consequences

I’m currently reading Grace Lee Boggs’s autobiography Living for Change. Grace Lee Boggs is an activist in Detroit. She and her husband Jimmy Boggs were important organizers in the 1960s during the unrest in Detroit caused by the Civil Rights Movement and Ms. Boggs stays active today.

In her autobiography, she has an entire chapter on her husband. The chapter is an amazing look at how a political-minded person with a heart for love can create real change. She writes:

…Jimmy was always taking care of others. If he looked out the window and saw someone trying to start his car, he was out there like a flash offering his help. He filled out income tax forms for people in the community and for his coworkers, white and black. They trusted him more than they trusted H&R Block and brought their friends and relatives to him. I especially recall Mike, an old Italian retiree with a throat ailment that made him barely audible. Playing the numbers was Mike’s only recreation. One year, after Jimmy had done his taxes, Mike concluded that Jimmy had the inside dope on which number would come out each day. Jimmy didn’t want to disillusion Mike because having someone to talk to every day obviously meant so much to him. So every evening until Mike died, he would call and they would go through the ritual of Jimmy telling him what number had come out that day and giving him a number to play tomorrow.

Jimmy was especially caring toward young people and elders. We watched three generations of young people grow up on Field Street, where we lived for more than thirty years. He called them “my girls” and “my boys,” kept track of how they were doing in school, and was always ready to help them with their homework or with advice about a summer job or how to get a student loan.

Today, I was registered to take the English certification exam in Michigan so that I would be able to teach English there. But I slept through the exam. I slept through the exam.

I was making plans to go out tonight when the Zimmerman verdict came in.

And it’s just… what am I doing? What am I doing that it’s okay that I slept through an exam? What am I doing that it’s okay that I spend my weekends trying not to think about anyone but myself?

TFA really pushes us to create a sense of urgency in the classroom. If my students feel that every lesson I teach is the most important thing they have ever learned, then they will be hooked. That’s the goal. And I guess I’m coming to the realization that my life lacks any sense of urgency. I slept through an exam this morning. Who does that? If I really believe that the world needs changing, then what am I doing about it?

Grace Lee Boggs writes elsewhere:

I never ceased to envy and marvel at the fluency with which Jimmy wrote and the speed with which his pen would travel from the left side of the page to the right. When he came home from work, he would lie down on his stomach on the living room floor with a yellow pad and start writing. He would wake up mornings and dash off letters to the editor before breakfast.

That’s the kind of urgency I want. I’m tired of beliefs without consequences.

About this Blog

We hope for knowledge; It rises from the ashes.

Region
Detroit
Subject
Math

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