Shut the Front Door!

Growing up, my mom often told me my mouth was going to get me trouble. I would talk non-stop; asking questions, rambling to annoy my sister, whatever the mood may have been at the moment.  She wasn’t wrong.  Teachers usually told my parents that my biggest issue in school was talking.  I can’t remember how many times my various elementary teachers would make me move to another seat in their classroom because of talking.

That issue continued in middle school as well.  Picture it, Wayne Middle School, 1993.  I was in sixth grade and my homeroom teacher was constantly absent due to medical issues.  It could have been the fact that he was chewing styrofoam cups in class.  I am also pretty sure they had been soaked in alcohol.  With his continued absences, we had a bevy of substitute teachers in homeroom and English.  This particular day was no different.  We shall refer to her as Ms. Smith since that is a common last name back home.

You could tell that Ms. Smith was fresh out of college and lacked the skills to properly manage a classroom filled with sixth graders.  Throughout our English class, she yelled “Shut Up” constantly as a way to try to regain control of our class.  Me being me, I kept talking because I thought she was being rude.  Now, I get it.  I kept talking in class but eventually stopped.  However, she kept yelling “Shut up!”.   The next day, our English teacher returned to school and ripped us from one side of the room to the next for being rude.  He assigned all of us to write apology letters to Ms. Smith because of our behavior.

I was so mad that I was going to have to apologize to someone for being so rude to me.  I sat in the living room that night pondering my apology.  Finally, I spoke to my dad about what had happened and he encouraged me to write what I felt.  So began my letter to Ms. Smith telling her that if she weren’t being so rude to us and constantly yelling “shut up” that we would have stopped talking.  Now I can’t remember what I wrote but I feel like it must have helped somewhat because Ms. Smith was back in our homeroom and English class the next week.  Not once did she yell at us to “shut up”.

Why did I write about something that happened in the last century?  I was thinking back about why I became so passionate about using my skills, a.k.a. talking, to fight for equity.  Our parents raised us to give back and help out others who were in need even though we may not have everything we thought we needed (found out later that those things were called “wants”).  However, I came back to this story.  Little did I know that something I did in sixth grade would foreshadow my future.

I find it interesting that we tend to live in our truth long before we realize that it is who we are at our core.  Like my mom said, my mouth was going to get me in trouble; trust me, it has.  However, I have been blessed to make a career out of advocating for myself and others.  You never know what situations are going to impact your life, what matters is how you grow and learn from them.

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