Imagine, the year is 1964; you are entering into the sixth grade. While it is a pleasant day, every fiber of your being realizes that something is different about this opening day of school. Your parents did not prepare you for this. The air is so thick that you can barely breathe. As you look around you can clearly see that, for the first time since you have been going to school, some of the students are African American. You see, my sixth grade year was to be the first year for segregation in the Marion County Schools. Lebanon Elementary was going through the changes that our country was going through. History was being made right before my eyes.
To make matters worse I must tell you, I was not much of a student. I was entering into the sixth grade and for the love of life I could not tell you how they passed me through the first five years of school. You see there were five of us in my family and I was the oldest. I did not have older siblings to lead the way and give me a clue as to why I was in school. My twin brother and I were sent to school unprepared, and I can tell you that even after five years of school, I did not know why I was here. But, I knew that I was falling further and further behind. Luckily though, I was figuring out this reading stuff. It made good sense to me, and it took me places that I had never been.
I can still remember being assigned the first seat in the first row. It was scary because no matter what I did, the rest of the class would certainly be able to see me. But, I had to turn around in order to see what was really going on in that classroom. My teachers name was Ms. Kessler. She looked like the oldest woman I had ever seen. The only thing bluer than her piercing eyes was her hair. While it is easy for me to be compassionate about her circumstances today, I only felt sorry for myself on that day. I knew that it was going to be a tough year and that I was not going to enjoy any part of it.
Each day though, I noticed that Ms. Kessler was spending more and more time at students’ desk. She even spent time at my desk. She was very strict, and very firm, but she spent time with individuals on an individual basis. She was obviously very serious about our academic achievement.
I will never forget the note on my first report card. “Are you serious about your learning?” Right there on my report card, for the entire world to see, I had a serious question that Ms. Kessler had taken the time to write. I knew by now that the only way to answer Ms. Kessler was with my actions. She …