Lots of hubbub is going on right now around the young Ahmed Mohamed, a 14 year old student living in Texas who brought a homemade clock to school, only to be arrested because his teachers and the police believed it to be a bomb.
Ahmed’s cousin says he’s a genius at that kind of stuff. Ahmed’s dad says he’s brilliant. Ahmed says he made a clock. And he said that several times, which the authorities deemed “uncooperative”. I call it redundant.
The thing is, I’ve taught in public schools for ten years. Lots and lots of kids. Lots and lots of Muslim kids, to be quite frank. I could have been that teacher, that English teacher who called the principal, who then called the police, who then handcuffed him, interrogated him, and wouldn’t let him call his parents.
I can’t tell you that I wouldn’t be alarmed if I saw a kid pull a box with a bunch of wires out of his backpack. I also can’t tell you that I would think to be alarmed. One day, several years back, my teaching partner (a former U.S. Marine) had to call a Code Red, or Code Yellow, or whatever, because he saw (from about 200 feet away) a parent walk in to the building with a gun on a holster. Turns out this parent was a victim of domestic violence who felt the need for protection, came to pick up her kid, and forgot it was there. If I remember correctly, it was also unloaded. (If you’re wondering, that’s still not allowed!) I left that day thinking I was glad John was my teaching partner because God knows I wouldn’t have noticed a gun on someone’s hip unless they were right smack in front of me. It was a good thing SOMEONE was looking out for us all. That lady wasn’t arrested. She was questioned in the principal’s office, and sent home, with a reminder to not bring her gun when she picks up her child.
It’s not that I’m ignorant. I’m also not unobservant. Sometimes I’m just too busy teaching my students, learning who they are as people, to notice anything else. I have a feeling a teacher like me might have noticed the sparkle in Ahmed’s eyes coming from the pride he felt at his creation before noticing his clock looks vaguely like something I might see on NCIS.
On days like this, I know my former colleagues and I would have a lot of conversations about Ahmed. We had students who could have been Ahmed. As a matter of fact, I know that I have had at least one student who shares that same name. Even though I’m out of the classroom now, I am still a teacher, and I have to weigh in: Why wasn’t Ahmed afforded the same treatment that the mother who HAD AN ACTUAL GUN had? Why wasn’t he asked, simply, to not bring in things that some hyper-vigilant teachers might consider bombs?
Now I weigh in as a mom: Thanks, teacher for considering the safety of your students. But how can you call yourself a teacher with such a closed mind? Did he tell you it was a clock? Yes. Did it turn out to be a clock when it was tested? Yes. No student is going to open his or her mind and heart to you if you can’t see the true beauty and intelligence in a young mind when its product is literally sitting there on your desk. And to reach my kids, to reach any kids, that’s what you need: their open hearts and minds.