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Better To Be Grey Than Bald

May 3, 2012
New Orleans Students at ASU

We toured Alabama State University and many of my students were enchanted by the knowledge that they can get full rides to college for good grades. I overheard more than one child calling mom after the tour to say, “I’m going to college. I just gotta keep my grades.”

Chaperoning 40 high school students from New Orleans to North Carolina is both much easier and much harder than I had anticipated.

Last night I paced the hallways until after 1 a.m. ensuring we didn’t get ourselves kicked out of the hotel.

One boy, whose mother said she has never let him out of her sight, appeared in a hallway other than his own after midnight. He quickly told me he had to get his iPod from another student. He walked directly to the other student’s room, knocked, and went in. Five seconds later he emerged empty handed, and audibly whispered, “Pretend you are (mumbles)“. The other student grabbed his ice bucket and did his best to pretend whatever he was supposed to pretend and promptly locked himself out of his room. He looked sheepishly at me, and I followed him to the front desk and fly-on-the-wall-watched him ask for another key. These kids hate doing stuff like that, and oh, do I enjoy the uncomfortableness.

Another student happened to open his door to go somewhere but failed to check the hallway before saying, “Come on, what’s-her-name is gone.”

I then promptly shamed him into A) attempting to sneak out and B) not calling me by my name. Shame is so much better than yelling. One of my favorite lines (which I used when a student smoked in the bathroom the night before) is, “You are an intelligent person who can make good decisions. But right now you should be embarrassed. I am, of you, and for you. ALWAYS make decisions that you can be proud of.”

Making a girl change out of her spandex body dress that barely covered her bottom? That stuff is the easy stuff. The accidentally easy stuff.

The hard part is when my 17-year-old girl cries against my chest on the college tour because she has cerebral palsey and her body aches from too much walking. And from missing her mother. It’s the first time in her life she’s ever been apart from her. It’s all I can do to keep myself from crying as we sit under a tree for shade and wait for the rest of the kids to buy trinkets from the Tuskeegee bookstore.

The hard part is not overfeeding them snacks. Not giving them all my money. Not wishing desperately I can take one (or all) of them home with me.  Not plucking any of the 4,312 grey hairs that have suddenly appeared to celebrate my 33rd birthday tomorrow. That’s the hard part. But I’ve earned these grey hairs for a damn good reason, and better to be grey than bald.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2012 7:32 am

    These students are SO LUCKY to have you.

  2. kmrobb1 permalink
    May 3, 2012 7:39 am

    it’s working!! they’re inspired! I overheard more than one child calling mom after the tour to say, “I’m going to college. I just gotta keep my grades.”

    happy birthday!!

  3. May 8, 2012 7:35 pm

    makes me think back to my old teachers, my respect for them is a little behind schedule.

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