Brown Sugar Gains Another Village

VillageDisclaimer: Old blog post, but still relevant!

Yesterday was the first day after fall break. I was excited to see the kids, and they were excited to see me! I normally stand outside in the mornings and tell kids, “Come on in this house.” They always laugh, but head inside. Well, yesterday was cold, and the kids came on in the house without prompting.

The day went smooth as a day in a high school could go. I learned very early that it was Bosses Day, because our staff was so generous to our Administrative team all day! But do you remember a time when your parents or grandparents would say, “It’s too quiet. What them kids in there doing?” Yea, it got too quiet on us. LOL

I had two young men brought to my office because they had gotten into a bit of trouble. One student I knew in passing. I just learned his name this year, and that was enough for me to get the truth out of him. The other student, let’s call him Lucas, I’ve known since middle school. I taught both of his older brothers, and when it was an issue, I didn’t call his momma. I pulled out the big guns… I called grandmomma!

So I walked in fussing. It’s just October! You know how to act in school! You’ve been in school 11 years and 3 months! Then I had to lay the guilt trip on him. I can’t even do my work cause you ’round here showing out! I just want to go home and start over!

Then, Lucas took a deep breath and said me too. Honestly, I wish I could just start my whole life over. I looked up and saw that he was serious. All I wanted was to send my few lil emails, knock out 3-4 classroom observations, and eat lunch. That’s it. Nothing major. A lil lightwork! But that face immediately told me, today had other plans.

So, you remember the part about our faculty being super generous all day? Lunch was already on the table in the office. So I asked, at what age would you start? I started fixing my plate of neck bones and potatoes, greens, mac n cheese, and candied yams. Yep. That’s how we do it in the South!

Lucas told me his whole life story. How he was a good kid, when things got bad around age 13, and the decisions he made that took him from bad to worse. He unloaded like he had been waiting on someone to listen. I listened. I asked questions. He left no stone unturned. He knew the best place for him was at his grandmomma’s house because she was there, but he made the decision to move back in with momma because he missed her. Life with momma wasn’t what he thought it would be, but a life with his mom was better than no life at all. He paused for a second, looked at me, and said, “I bet you’re a good momma.” I told him that I try to be. I even told him that I’m struggling with finding a balance between being a momma and work. Then his real grown self told me not to be hard on myself. I got tickled. He talked some more, and all I could do was listen.

It was time for me to deliver my verdict, and this is the hard part of the job. I know that boys reach a certain age when they only learn from pain, not from talking. It’s when you take the time to listen to their stories, and your heart goes out to them. I want to figure out how to let them go home and start their lives over. These conversations are the most humbling ones in my career because it allows me to see them as real people rather than hard-headed kids who don’t know any better. In education, it’s easy to lose sight of your “why” and your own story. I was real “spirited” in high school! I should’ve received WAY more than the one suspension I got #favor.

I made my decision. I issued the suspension. I asked if he wanted me to call his mom or his grandmother. He begged and pleaded for me not to call his grandmother. Just call his momma. I picked up the phone and said, ok cool. I’ll call your grandmother. His mouth hit the floor, and I fell out laughing. Always call the one that’ll get you more bang for your buck.

This sweet little lady answered the phone. She listened to the story, and then she said some information that really confirmed everything Lucas had said. Sometimes, I deal with the kids who don’t think they did anything wrong. This kid was very self-aware. She asked to speak to Lucas and all I heard was, yes ma’am. No ma’am. He looked shattered over the fact that he had disappointed his grandmother.

This family let me into their village. Trusted me enough to stand behind my decision, and supported it by sending Lucas back up to the school the next day to get his make-up work. It should be mandatory for schools to build partnerships with parents/guardians. This becomes their village. Their tribe. Their real squad. I’m looking to see Lucas do some amazing things in the future!