are not strangers to Baltimore City school teachers.
I’ve lost others before. But Jowan really hurts. He was a “frequent flier” at William C. March in 6th grade, meaning he was always in the hallway instead of in class. I managed somehow to keep him in my room. I think I intrigued him. I made him laugh. I teased him. I wrestled him and punched him and hugged him a lot. When he would dip out of other classes I’d find his goofy ass hiding in the back of my class room.
I’d let him stay. At least he wasn’t running the halls. And seeing my Language Arts lessons more than once certainly didn’t hurt.
We had little rituals involving gum and fist-bumps and handshakes. Jowan liked to play-act that he was a budding thug and a fighter, but I knew him to be a sensitive, humorous kid just looking for a way to express himself in a community that too often only allows boys to express themselves as thugs. Whenever the violent, cold-hearted Jowan presented itself I could have him giggling and blushing like a little kid in a matter of minutes. Then we could process what he was upset about.
“Where’s my gum?” he would ask me. I slid him gum on the down-low. Candy too. He’d see me in the morning before class “Where’s my gum?” Or he’d pop in when he was supposed to be in Math or Science and ask “Where’s my gum?!” I’d say “Do your class work and I’ll hook you up,” or “If you turn in your vocabulary I’ll help you out,” but I was too much of a softy and I’d usually give him some gum anyhow. When he started staying in class more often in 7th grade I’d pop my head into Science or Math and mouth “Where’s my gum?” to him. He’d bust a gut.
The last time I heard from him, in fact, he wrote “Where’s my gum Godfrey?” on my FB page. It made me laugh. I haven’t seen him in more than 3 years.
Now he’s a statistic, another dead Baltimore teenager, likely killed for some stupid insult. Who knows, he could have been in The Game by now. I have no idea.