The Students Who Inspired Me

During the beginning of this campaign, I have been asked, “What made you want to be a counselor?” Let me tell you about two students who majorly influenced this decision of mine, and my life overall.

In my second year of teaching at a primary school in the Pasadena Unified School District, I had a little boy named Tommy in my second grade class. Tommy had a history of behavior problems and incidents of anger. He was very physical. One day while the class was at recess and I was inside doing some planning, the office was notified that Tommy had “lost it”. He was swinging at anybody he could. He was screaming, hitting, and punching kids and playground supervisors. All the students on the playground were watching (from a distance) to see what was going to happen.

Tommy was my student. I ran out to see for myself what was going on. I saw Tommy wailing and screaming and running and swinging at anybody not fast enough to evade him. Playground supervisors and teachers had surrounded him and were yelling at him to stop. Tommy was in an anger trance. I broke through the adult border, wrapped my arms around Tommy in a bear hug, picked him up, and talked very softly to him. The reaction I saw was like releasing steam from an out-of-control engine. He regained consciousness of where he was, going limp on my shoulder. Everyone screaming at him was increasing the build-up of his anger, so in his mind, he had to get wilder to get above the hysteria of the situation. The noise and yelling was creating a barrier between himself and those yelling at him that prevented him from hearing the directions to stop. Soft talk directly in his ear penetrated the defenses he created against his surroundings. Learning how to reach him this way helped me realize that you can’t out-yell anger! He or she who CALMLY and quietly takes control of the angry situation diffuses the volatility.

Years later, I was teaching math at Moorpark Memorial High. My math classroom was in a converted auto shop: cement brick walls, cement floor, and one whole side was a steel rolldown garage door. You can imagine how any sound reverberated off the walls, floor, and that steel door. One day, I was at my desk waiting for my class after lunch to arrive. One particular student came in and yelled at the top of his lungs, “Hi, Mr. Gorback!! How ya doin?” I immediately thought, “I wonder how much sugar he had at lunch…” I tried to tone down the volume by responding to him in a low voice, but my student continued in his same volume as each of his classmates entered the room. I knew the whole class wouldn’t survive his boisterousness, and within minutes I had to send him up to the office. When I called his mother at the end of the day to report the in-school suspension, I learned that my student and his stepdad hadn’t talked in seven months. No support or guidance from his same gender role model in his household- no wonder he was acting out.

I knew right then that I wanted to work with students one on one as their counselor. I have been fortunate enough to have two callings thus far in my life: teaching, and then counseling. Now, I am pursuing a new calling as a potential school board trustee. I am intensely passionate about ensuring that school policy benefits each and every individual student and working with staff to provide programs to help these students grow into informed, humane, responsible citizens.

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