My fifth- grade teacher kept saying, ‘You’re a smart kid, Malik. Why are you behaving like this?’ She was right too, because when I wasn’t making jokes or starting trouble, I would do my work and I would do it very well. She’d seen the potential in me. So that was my first Year Up moment, I guess you could call it.
At first I was kind of disrespectful, but she would man up with me. We’d go back and forth with each other and we finally found middle ground. That’s when I really started to focus. She earned my respect for doing that. She was really pushing me, giving me new outlets for how I could get out of special ed and get into programs with the regular students.