a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

Archive for communication

first day of school

< by JHK >

“You have the unfortunate condition of being so … light-skinned, baby. You … turn red when you’re upset.”

As the faculty associate evaluated my first day of teaching, I slouched in a plastic chair. My elbows dug into my knees. My hands cradled my face.

She sounded motherly and reassuring as she said, “I know you got the gumption to make it here.” She sounded menacing as she said, “Never let a black child see fear on your face.”

Unfortunately, all the 7th-graders in room 517 had seen fear on my face. It happened within the first five minutes of class:

The bell rang. “Please put away your cell phones,” I said. Trévon refused. Sternly, I repeated: “Put away your cell phone.” He stood up, walked to the front of the classroom and paused inches from my face. Then, he swung his backpack over his shoulder and walked out. The other kids whooped and hollered. I blushed.

– – –

After the FA recounted this scene, she looked up and spoke firmly: “Tomorrow you go in and say, ‘We gonna talk about what happened and we gonna move on.’”

And so, the next day, I asked Trévon why he refused to put away his phone. “I got a brother in the hospital — gunshot wound,” he said. “And you just didn’t listen. You was up there bossin, like you know what’s what.”

We opened the conversation to the class. We made rules about when you can and can’t have a phone. We decided who was and wasn’t in charge. Above all, we made a commitment to listen first and give grace generously.