The Education of Brother Mac

Torthel McClodden taught at one of the worst high schools in the city and loved it. Now they don't want him back.

And if all the district can do when someone like Brother Mac beats down its doors is to refer him to a limited private fund that may help him pursue certification, and if few of the other substitutes even know about the fund (the substitute-teacher handbook makes no mention of it), it's a reasonable conclusion that the board and administrators are either asleep at the wheel or so distracted by less important concerns as to not be paying attention to the basic issue of classroom education.

On a gray, damp, overcast Thursday afternoon, Brother Mac stands across the street from the entrance to Beaumont, looking at the imposing building that became so familiar to him over the past three years. School is over for the day, the buses are gone and teachers are trickling out. From out of an upper-story window, one teacher waves to him. Minutes later, a couple of students walk by, saying, "Hey, Brother Mac." They make small talk and walk on. Brother Mac recalls that when he was young, his mother sold sandwiches from a cart on the streets around the building, when it was full of white students.

It is apparent that he misses the school, misses interacting with the teenagers. "My whole life prepared me to do this," he says finally. "It's ministry, man! It's making an impact. And my self-esteem is tied up in it. I don't know what I'm going to do."

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