A few of my interviews have extolled the values of radical honesty and showing up authentically, as authenticity is one of the few arenas in which mediation and trust-building can thrive. However, doing so depends on everyone being as open, clear, and as vulnerable to each other as they can be, which we know for a number of reasons is especially hard for many of the kids and just as many of the adults to do in schools. A future attempt at honesty:
Mr. Xavi honestly never really understood his students the way he wanted to, though he tried each day to connect in whatever way he knew how. Yet, every day was a hard one in which his earnestness to mold young minds was read as exactly that, making him a prime target for those who craved a sense of control. The same was true of Jerome, though his situation made all that much harder by puberty. Every day was a hard one in which his earnestness to be accepted was read as exactly that, making him a prime target for those who craved a sense of control. On this day, Jerome is in 12th grade and Mr. Xavi is his English teacher. All but 2 black students in Jerome’s English class are out of class today for various suspensions, detentions, or other disciplinary actions. The class is otherwise full by the strong attendance of the other students. In English class, a strange conversation about said conditions ensues:
“Jerome, why are you on your phone in the back? This makes me feel blue.”
“Mr. Xavi, today I am feeling orange. My mood is black. Today I feel upset because you asked me why I was on my phone, and have not asked the same of any of the other kids in class who are also on their phone.”
“Jerome, today I am feeling red. My mood is green. Today I am frustrated because I am trying to teach, and your phone use is distracting me. Everyone else is on their phone, but I’m talking to you right now.”
“Mr. Xavi, today I am feeling orange. My mood is black. My heart is yellow. Today I feel confused because why should my texting keep you from writing on the board when your back is turned anyway?”
“Jerome, today I am feeling red. My mood is green. My feelings are blue. Hearing you say that made me feel sad, frustrated.”
“Mr. Xavi, today I am feeling orange. My mood is black. This interaction makes me feel red. Courtney is still on her phone by the way. Actually, she’s been on her phone all class and my mom just texted me so…”
“Jerome, I understand…”
“Mr. X, I feel blue because you cut me off. This makes my mood burnt mahogany. Can you help me understand why I would feel this way?”
“Jerome, today I feel red, increasingly fiery red. Today I feel disappointed because I feel you are deflecting from the issue at hand, which is increasingly distracting to me and the other students.”
A few other students let out a lazed, mixed cacophony of “mmm”, “ya”. Courtney takes a selfie with the other half of the class, many of whom were prepped to leave an Instagram comment, after having done the same all class period.
“Mr. Xavi, this makes me feel lime green. My heart is yellow. I actually would love to move on from this conversation as my phone was a distraction to me too. I’ve been enjoying your lesson so far.”
“Mr. Xavi!”, Courtney interrupts, “Can you take this picture for me?”
Mr. Xavi obliges while continuing to emote with Jerome, though growing exasperated. Today, like every day, was a hard one.
“Jerome, today I feel gray. I am tired. I don’t know why we keep having the same conversation.”
“Mr. Xavi!”, Courtney interrupts, “Another please? The angle, though.”
“Mr. Xavi, I understand what you’re saying as I am also tired. I don’t know why we keep having the same conversation.”
“Jerome, thank you for sharing. Today I feel blue, my heart is orange, my future is yellow”
“Mr. Xavi, thank you for sharing. Today I feel black, my heart is blue, my future is white, my insides feel calm. My world is bright.”
“Yes Jerome, your world is bright.”
“Mr. Xavi!”, Courtney yells. “Another please?”
Jerome takes the moment to return a text to his mom. Next to him Courtney adjusts her filter to Aden and thanks Mr. Xavi.
“Thank you, Mr. Xavi, my heart is blue. My insides feel calm. My world is bright.”