“Administer justice every morning.”  Jeremiah 21:12   Inner city teachers are administers of justice each morning.  The story of Tawanda is compelling to me

A girl walked up to me when I was quite new at my school.  She told me she had just been added to my class.  I checked my attendance, didn’t see her name figuring the counselors hadn’t added her yet.  I welcomed her into the room and helped her get into the flow of things.

Tawanda was not very receptive to my welcome.  In fact she was very disruptive.  She proceeded to try every which way to get under my skin.  She did!  Tawanda was not in the room very long, but she had done a lot of damage.  Try as I might she had the other girls in the single sex classroom all worked up.  She was ‘entertaining’ them, which was much better than learning about economics!  A frustrating hour indeed.

As her appearance was quite distinctive I was able to identify Tawanda to our school disciplinarian and we quickly were able to figure out her name.  It turns out Tawanda was on the girls basketball team.  Coaches in inner city schools are like parents to their players.  Tawanda’s coach was very interested to hear what Tawanda had done!

Coach brought Tawanda to me the very next day and she apologized.  I assured her I would forgive her although I was still quite upset for the major disruption to my class.

Tawanda started saying hi to me when I saw her in travels around the school.  Soon it was clear we were developing a relationship.  Over Christmas I stopped by the gym and saw the girls basketball team waiting in the gym to go to a game later in the afternoon.  I saw Tawanda (who was ineligible to play) and asked her if she wanted to play a game of one on one.  Coach said she needed the workout so away we went.   We had a blast, Tawanda wore me down and was the first to ten.

2nd Semester I checked my new class lists and saw Tawanda’s name.  I wondered if she would revert to the display of several months earlier.  Instead Tawanda was one of the kids I enjoyed greatly in class.  She earned a B for the semester.  Lesson learned, forgive and forget.

Tawanda failed another class and was not permitted to graduate.  She had an offer to play college basketball.  If she went to summer school she may still be able to make it.  Coach told me the other day Tawanda didn’t make it to summer school.  She didn’t come back to school this fall to complete her HS education.

I’ve thought a lot about Tawanda in the last few days.  Where is she, what’s going to happen to her?  I’m not sure.  With little family support it’s bleak.   These are the mountains and valleys of teaching in difficult places.

  1. August 14, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Steve, good blog! It was a compelling story, and so sad that a family won’t go to bat for a girl who has the potential to succeed in college because of her great talent! She needs people like you in her life. Keep pressing on!

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