Monday, March 23, 2009


As I've mentioned before I still flex my teaching muscles for a famous for cookies girls' organization. I've also stated before that this year, my class on manners and lady-like behavior (you know the word that begins with an "e" and ends with "quette") has proven to be most difficult. A few weeks ago I was ready to throw in the towel. After a series of lessons on table manners and proper place settings one of my girls proceeded to share the following story:

"So last week, right. Me and my family were at TGIFridays for my dad's birthday, right. And I was standing up with a rib in my hand, right. And I started laughin' and raised my hand like this when I was laughin', right. And a piece of meat from my rib flew off and went into my cousin's glass of wine and she got mad at me but I ain't do it on purpose."

Excuse me? Scratch the needle allllllllllllllllllllllllll the way across the record on both Side A and Side B. In an effort to get this child to see the error of her ways independently without me telling her specifically I began to ask her questions.

Why were you standing up at the table with a rib in your hand?
Because I was hungry.

Were all the seats taken?
No, I was about to go to the bathroom.

With a rib?
Yeah, cuz I was hungry but I wasn't going to go in there with it.

Were you that hungry that you couldn't wait 3 minutes for you to return from the bathroom and properly complete your meal while sitting at the table?
Umm, yeah.

Jesus take the wheel. I was T-H-R-O-U-G-H. While some of the other girls giggled because they could see the error of her ways (or the indignation written all over my face), I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. We discussed proper table manners, and no where in the manual I gave them did it say that her actions were acceptable. More importantly your parents actually let you stand up at a restaurant with food in your hands??? At the end of this exchange I couldn't even formulate an appropriate response without going off. I told her to think about the mistakes she made in her story and how she could have better handled the situation. I did say " I need you to understand that flinging rib juice at a dinner table is never ever appropriate" and I also recommended that she should send her cousin $10 to cover the cost of her wine with an apology note. She balked. I cringed. Oh and at the end of class, she asked me "what do I get for completing this class? Is there some kind of prize or something" I replied "Yeah. Knowledge." She didn't get it .

Ever since this exchange, I was dreading the final class. The girls were instructed to present something they learned in the class and discuss the importance of said lesson. Their parents were invited to come. With my other 2 classes, I had faith that these classes would far exceed my expectations because the girls in the other classes were just that fabulous. But with stories like the one mentioned coupled with the ghetto mentality, I was prepared for the absolute worst.
Thankfully, I was proven wrong. The girls who actually got up to present brought tears to my eyes more than once. Things that I didn't think they learned were highlighted with such clarity and understanding . I was in awe. While I was slightly disappointed that only 4 girls out of my 20 plus got up and spoke, their sentiments and gratitude more than made up for it (for the record only 13 showed up). With the parents the class turned into a frank discussion about why we want better for them and how they can achieve that. The girls opened up and participated in ways I never thought they would. They shared their fears of being perceived as "acting white". This bothers me on so many levels, primarily because I've heard it all my life. When are we going to stop this??

At the end, one of the parents thanked me for "pulling the weeds out" of her daughter's ears. She said I tended to the soil of their minds and hopefully planted new seeds. And once again, the tears fell. While I've never been a gardener, I got what she was saying. All this time, I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle with these girls, thinking nothing was sinking in. When all along, I was pulling weeds and planting seeds. On Saturday, the flowers began to bloom. Now its up to the people around them to tend to the flower. I've done my part.

Oh I guess I should mention Rib girl didn't show up on Saturday. Some weeds are just too stubborn.

1 comment:

rashad said...

I'm glad most of the class appreciated and learned from you. Rib girl needs private sessions, so that's money you can make on the side..