A Student’s View of the Liberian Civil War

Look around you on the street, at the waiting room of a doctor’s office, or even while people are driving. We can’t escape it; we are glued to our mobile devices.

Now imagine teaching technology in a middle school lab full of computers. It’s so easy for student’s to go off task when they have the world at their finger tips. Heck, I held professional development sessions in my lab where it was tough getting the adults off their fantasy football sites and email. Imagine adolescents.

In 2009 I remember teaching an 8th grade class Movie Maker. This was before I kicked it up a notch with the more advanced Sony Movie Vegas. There was a young man who would rather surf the web for sneakers than do any of my work. It was a constant battle and in my class I never give up on anyone and would hate for any student to slip through my fingers. With this student I tried what I do with all my students; push the right buttons. “Look Ben, this is how you do it…just make the movie about anything you are passionate about.”

Well….once he got started….phew… let me just say it’s four years later and I still think about his very powerful video. It was so good that the administration was circulating it around and we wanted to submit it for a student film festival. Apparently, and I didn’t know this at the time, Ben survived the Liberian Civil War and barely made it out alive. Some family members didn’t.

See his movie here:

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Ben suddenly left the school and I never saw or heard from him again. That is until last week when I saw a young man who resembled him at Home Depot. “Ben” I asked. “Yeah” he responded with a look that really asked “Who the heck are you” (Side note: I lost a lot of hair since 2009.) “It’s Mr. Portelos.” I added. “Ohhh….Mr. Portelos..” he responded as we shook hands and caught up for a few minutes. I was glad to hear he is going to pursue graphic design and he was ecstatic when I told him I still have his Liberian War Video. He told me he could use it and add it to his portfolio and his application for college.

The problem lies in that even though I double checked his email address, when I sent him the file from home, I received the horrible response – User unknown. “Ahhh..that sucks” I thought. Now I have no way of getting this to him. Then I thought, why not use the popularity of this site to send it out and hopefully he will get it as well as showcase his creativity.

You can read more about the Liberian Civil War here

Sometimes as teachers we never know what it’s like to wear the student’s shoes and all we can do is try our best to educate them despite all obstacles. Sometimes it is us, the teachers, who get educated.

Ben…..your amazing video is on youtube. Email me at mrportelos@gmail.com


About Francesco Portelos

Parent and Educator fighting for the student and the teacher.
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One Comment

  1. Josh gutterman


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