Transcript of Video
Do you remember your first day of 7th grade?
You would’ve been probably about 12 or 13 years old. For me it wasn’t long before that that popularity and fitting in worked its way on to my radar. And I walked into my first day of 7th year thinking “this is going to be my year. This is going to be the year I get noticed, I make more friends. This is going to be the year I finally get the attention of boys. And this will be the year that I shed the invisibility cloak. Stop being an outcast.”
And then I walked into my first classroom, and my teacher called me to the front of the room, handed me a piece of paper and said, “You’ve been reassigned, so you need to report to this class.” I didn’t think much of it, happily headed on to my next classroom, and when I got there I was last to arrive.
I walked in and it’s a class of about 10-12 kids and they were all the misfits of the school. These are the kids that have even less friends than I do. Some of the kids have been in some pretty serious trouble. And I’m looking at the teacher standing at the board with a look on his face like “what did I do to be the guy assigned to this class?” And he said “Amiee, right?” I said “yup!” and he said “take a seat.”
Then he said “my name is Mr. Parker. You guys will be in my class all day. I will teach you every subject. I will give you assignments. You will work at your own pace. And when everyone’s done with the assignment, we’ll move on. I expect you to behave, and I expect you to be quiet. And oh yeah, we’re going to do some field trips. So here are some forms to take home and have your parents sign and bring back.”
I didn’t know at the time exactly what had happened but I found out shortly after. The school administrators had decided to put together a special class of all the “at risk” kids in the school. So they looked at our backgrounds and our behavior and our families and they decided we needed a special class. We were the kids that they wanted to keep a closer eye on. We were the kids they wanted to keep out of trouble. But most importantly we were the kids they wanted to keep away from the general student population. We even had our own lunch period that we shared with nobody else.
For most kids in the class, they had been in some trouble. Some kids were medicated, some were pretty unresponsive. For me, I don’t think they actually looked at me at all. They didn’t take into account my grades up to that point, which had all been As and Bs. They didn’t look at the few friends I did have, which were pretty good kids who weren’t in any trouble. They didn’t look at my behavior. I was actually really quiet and shy… usually a teacher favorite and I hadn’t been in any trouble myself either.
What they looked at was they looked my older brother who had probably one of the thickest files of bad behavior in the school files. They looked at his juvenile record; they looked at his drug use. They looked at my family. They knew that my mom had left when I was 2. They knew that my dad was raising us. They knew that my dad had only gone as far as the 8th grade in high school before he dropped out, and that he was a truck driver which meant he was gone most of the time, not even really around to take care of us; weeks at a time in some cases. They knew I had been abused by a caretaker. They looked at the rest of my family and they saw all the prevalent commonalities among them – the drug use, the trailer parks, the teenage pregnancy, the jail time, the poverty, the high school dropouts. They looked at my sad little trailer park that I lived in and they knew that I’ve been the kid sent home from school a few times already because I was the kid with lice.
They looked at all of that and they decided that my future was pretty determined, that I wasn’t going anywhere either. Might as well put me in this special class since I needed to learn how to shop for groceries more than I needed to learn how to do algebra.
That year, well at first semester, I basically spent every day completing my assignment quickly, always the first to do so, and then playing chess with Mr. Parker. Yes, he taught me to play chess that year and we played chess nearly every day, except for the days we were at the grocery store and learning how to read price tags. No joke, we had a field trip on how to read price tags.
At the end of the semester, Mr. Parker went to the school board and said “you really should put her back in regular school” and they said no.
So we spent another semester playing chess. And then at the end of the year, thankfully, Mr. Parker went back to them again and insisted “she’s not displaying ‘at risk’ behavior. You really need to put her back in school. She’s a good student.” And they did. That’s how I went back to regular school.
But I learned 2 things that year. Well I guess I decided 2 things that year.
One was… never again did I want anyone else to be in charge of my fate. I wanted to be in control of that. And two, I was going to continue on my path to having a different life than the one I was currently living. I was going to show all of those people who thought I belonged in that class that anyone can create the life they want, regardless of the life they’re born into.
Anyone can do that!
You can create an awesome life,
No matter where you start.
You just have to believe,
and then do your part!
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