Sometimes all it takes is one comment to rock our world. One innocent comment and our world shifts around us. Like you could guess, it was an ordinary day like any other day at Thornton High. As usual at lunch time, teachers sauntered into the English department office either with a tray from the cafeteria or with their packed lunch. I must have beat everyone in because I remember shaking off thoughts of my last class, Practical English, a class that I loved to teach but one that other teachers shied away from. Louis had told the story of his father getting into trouble with the law one more time, and Joe complained about having to close late at work the night before. That class, mostly boys, were sometimes tricky to settle down, but once we got into a grove, they often surprised me. Right now we were in the middle of a mock business venture where they had to determine the qualities of a person they’d hire, then develop interview questions, and design the application form. It was a task they enjoyed and that had prompted some hot and heavy conversation.
Just as I was thinking about Louis’ comment about whether or not a criminal record should matter in hiring decisions, our department chair walked into the office. Often her stories of her AP class were entertaining and stories that greatly differed from those I might tell about Practical English.
“You know,” she began, “I looked around the room today and noticed that I have a lot of girls in AP, and they sure are blond!” She sat down and began eating her salad.
And I pictured my Practical English class: those boys sure weren’t blond. Louis’ last name was Lucero, and Joe’s last name was Italian, can’t remember all these years later, but I do know that I had a Gonzales and a Gomez in class. And one of the few African American students in our school sat in the third row.
And my guys weren’t.
Her girls were learning about Hawthorne and Hemingway. My guys were learning about business writing and filling out forms. Her girls were writing extended essays while my guys were writing letters of complaint. Her girls were talking about going to college and my guys were worrying about jobs.
And hers were blond and mine weren't.
Yep, one comment that day at lunch shifted my world and rocked me awake.