I teach math at a charter school. This school is certainly different; there is an arts emphasis as well as business and college prep emphasis. I teach Geometry, Algebra I and a CaHSEE prep class so students can practice the math that appears on the California High School Exit Exam (CaHSEE). I want to share something that happened today.

I met my CaHSEE class for the first time and there were only 5 of them. Given that these students are giving up an elective to take math, I figured that their attitudes would be less than stoked to meet me. After blowing through the syllabus, I decided that getting to know these students would be more beneficial than having them build a tower using a pencil, two pieces of paper and a piece of tape, like the other periods did. This is how the conversation went around the circle:

Mr. V: Okay, I’d like to go around and say your name, the best part of your summer, and your favorite thing to do when you’re not studying for the CaHSEE.

Triscia: I’m Triscia, the best part of my summer was going to Disneyland, and when I’m not studying for the CaHSEE, I like to…. I donno, go to the mall or watch TV.

Chuck: I’m Chuck, the best part of my summer was… I donno, kicking it with friends, and when I’m not studying for the CaHSEE, I like to listen to music.

Seth: I’m Seth and… my summer wasn’t really that good; I just got out of the juvenile detention center and… um… I met a girl, I proposed to her last night and she said yes. When I’m not studying for the CaHSEE, I love to play Basketball, it’s my favorite sport.

Mr. V: Congratulations on your engagement!

I managed to catch Seth after class. “Hey, Seth. That took a lot of guts, man; revealing to a group of people you don’t know that you just got out of jail. I’m impressed; that took a lot of balls.” His response gave me hope for teenagers across America.

“Well, you know, I don’t wanna lie to everybody, I just… I just gotta be real, you know?”

Great, Seth. Keep being real.