Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If I Make It Here ... I'll Make It Anywhere

My classes were all held in the evening.

They were from 7PM - 9PM ... three nights a week. I was the only teacher in the building and most of the kids looked older (and probably were older) than me. I found out quickly how stupid I was to let them call me by my first name and to be their "friend". It took me most of the term of the program to get the class to at least have some respect for my position (which was usually fetal).

The three black panthers hung together in the back of the room and never participated. The "slicer" never did cut any part of my body off although I feared for my life every day. I remember there was a kid named Damien. He was huge ... about 6'8" and over 300 pounds ... all muscle. I think he repeated his senior year fourteen times and was the star of the BHMA basketball team. No surprise they were division state champs ... probably ever since the program began.

And there was Tasha. She was a shy, sullen girl who sat by herself. No one bothered her because she would glower at them if they came close. I tried my best to get her to open up but she would drop her head and never did fully participate. I still talked to her every class period for the term of the course.

While I was there, I remember that the police came to campus twice. Once there was a reported rape (not in my class) and there was a shooting in one of the dorms. No one was hurt, fortunately. I knew that if I made it through this assignment I could teach anybody ... anything.

Every evening I would eat at the motel before class ... and during the days, I taught at an elementary school in Sumter (just about a half hour from Camden). It was a Catholic school and many of the kids were from military families as it was a large base.  Don't really remember much about that school. The nightmare at BHMA was all my brain could handle.

Carol came to stay with me toward the end of the course. I remember having words with the hotel manager. She almost kicked me out for having a GIRL in the room. Not allowed.

On the last week of class ... I was invited to the senior prom, Carol came with me as my date. The boys were impressed that she was good looking or that maybe I wasn't as gay as they thought ... but the highlight of the night ... and by the way ... the highlight of my entire three months at BHMA (I'll always remember the purposeful irony of this gesture so vivdly) ... was when Tasha came up to me in the middle of the dance floor that night.

She handed me the recorded soundtrack from the movie ... "To Sir With Love". Then gave me a big hug.

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