Tyrese Graham (TG): I walked into my first class, and the kids were talking. They were loud; I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. And I say, ”Okay, guys. You know what? I wanna stop talking. I’ll let you finish, but realize, every moment that I’m not talking and providing you instruction, you guys will be giving that back to me.”
And one of the kids yelled out, ”Oh you must not know what [expletive] school you at.”
And I stopped. And I didn’t know what to say. And then one of the kids yelled out, ”Who the [expletive] are you?”
And I said, ”I’m Mr. Graham. It’s nice to meet you.”
I went home that first night, and I was like, ”What am I doing? Why did I ever agree to this?”
Being a teacher in this type of environment, you’re going to be faced with a lot that you would have never thought you would face. I never thought I would face the death of a student. He was a kid that I had when he was a freshman, in freshman biology. And, he got killed in a drive-by shooting. He was shot in the head–his mother was also shot in the arm. I’ve dealt with death before, but I had never dealt with the death of somebody so young and somebody with so much potential. A lot of times, we’re faced with a lot of kids who don’t want to be in school or who are forced to be here. But this was a kid who really valued his education. I remember being at the funeral; I was trying to be strong, and I saw one of my students approach his casket to view his body, and she couldn’t, and she started crying, and that’s when I lost it. And I could not control myself.
These kids have to face this everyday. I don’t live here. I can go home when all of that stuff begins to happen. They don’t have that luxury. I’ve been humbled a lot. I’ve learned so much, and I understand it’s one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging jobs you will ever face. Really, it’s not a job; you’re dedicating your life to this. And at the beginning of the year last year, I was like, you know what, I’m going to make it through this year and I’m leaving. But then, at the beginning of September, I walked through this door, and at this point I would not go anywhere else. I love it here.