One slept. Others stared, bored.
He had planned today’s class carefully: His students would relate to him. They would ask his advice about college. Then he would divide them into teams and lead them in a tic-tac-toe spelling game.
They would compete fiercely. Excitedly.
A girl in the front row studied herself in the mirror of her compact. She ignored him.
This was Ricardo Acuña’s third week as a teacher. Day after day, it was growing more difficult. He gave the girl a tense look. Then he wrote her name in red on the board: detention.
“Mister! I wasn’t putting on makeup.” She slammed her books on her desk. Then she crossed her arms and slumped in her seat.
“If you have an education,” Ricardo told them all, “you can make a difference in your lives and your families’ lives.”
The hour passed without any sign that he was making much difference himself.
Acuna, the son of a migrant laborer, got a boarding school scholarship and went on to earn Stanford and Columbia degrees. After working as communications director for the United Farmworkers, he’s now a teaching intern. The mentorship program that was supposed to help career-switchers learn to teach has lost its funding, but he can turn to his wife, an experienced teacher, for help.