We had a responsibility to our students, but of course we also had a responsibility to our fellow teachers and also—we always used to say this—we wanted to extend our responsibility: not only to our students and fellow teachers, but to the whole community.
We always told our students, We wouldn’t like you to pretend to be polite here at school, to behave well here at school, but to be like that in life, because what they learn has an effect on their neighborhoods, and we knew their neighborhoods were very hostile.
So we had hopes to instill in them that what they learned at school could have an effect on the hostility of families or the hostility of the neighborhood. It was possible to generate different situations. That’s why I think I started this conversation mentioning a clear political commitment—because after all, it’s a political commitment to others, to generating more livable ways of living for others. Among our duties was going with our students to their homes when they were feeling ill or there were problems, and listening to their families. Honestly, sometimes when I discuss politics with someone and that person has a disparaging view of these adolescents, I tell them, I would suggest that you listen to them and learn about their living conditions.
And with this as a starting point, instead of judging, [it’s important to] work towards changing these situations, because the easiest attitude is to pass judgement, out of prejudice. But when you enable them, when you listen to them—and I always say this—, not from a moralist standpoint… In fact, we have listened to our students and have learned from them about drug use, because we said to them, Look, I’m dissociated from this world you live in, if you don’t tell me something about the world you live in— What kinds of things do you do? Why? What do they mean? I remember, regarding using marihuana, they told us, It’s about being together, uniting by way of smoking joints.
If you don’t listen to them, you can hardly trigger anything in these situations they have to go through, or you can hardly intervene—always from a place of respect.