Instructors do three things: arrogantly talk about themselves, ask for students to engage in superficial, meaningless introductions that no one will remember, and read every line of their boring syllabus to students like we can’t.
So I show up fashionably late to reduce the total amount of time wasted, especially for an 8am class.
Imagine my surprise to walk into this class 30 minutes late to see the teacher sitting at his computer doing nothing and all the students working on an assignment. I thought what a disinterested, lazy bum, he should be fired.
I looked at the board and read the instructions: “Take out a sheet of paper. Write four paragraphs, the first 3 must start with the words “I am” and the last one starts with “I am not”. Now turn that into a 2-3 minute oral presentation.
I mumbled, “I’m not sure how much I should share about myself” leery about the motive for this “assignment”. But I decided to take the jump since everyone else seemed to be working diligently.
We all gave our presentations, and I have to admit, the class was much more interesting than I imagined it would be. I learned a lot about my classmates, but I still thought the instructor was a lazy bum.
The next class, my perceptions of the teacher did a 180 when the instructor gave their “reflections”. The lazy bum was transformed into a passionate, motivating, Civil Rights historical educator that gave us an insightful critique about our presentations. Two of us were cited by name for the content of what we talked about. After dissing my attitude when I came in the door, the professor gave me props for communicating the chip on my shoulder, that too often people see my looks and ignore my intelligence, my drive, my substance.
So after class, I felt it my responsibility to tell the instructor. “I thought you were a horrible instructor last week, totally disinterested in your students. But today I saw your passion. I was wrong.”
But the more I thought about the instructional approach, the more I wondered how honest they were being, not with us necessarily, but with themselves. The more I listened to the stories about being a “Black educational activist”, the more curiosity it stirred in me. I was confused, that the instructor seemed so lost and confused about who they were. Let’s keep it real, “who the hell did the prof think they were fooling! Definitely not me!” I don’t know much about activism but I know good stuff has to start with the truth, and I knew what I was hearing from the teacher was far from the whole truth.
Just looking at my professor, in particular his skin, after the third class, I played my hunch. A group of four or five students started a conversation about how much we enjoyed the class as the instructor was packing up, not saying much, but we slowly drew them into the conversation. I decided it was time to ask the question that addressed one of my biggest pet peeves, when people are not honest about who they are, often without even thinking about how they define themselves to the world. Although I was unsure how the professor would respond, I was sure that they were hiding an important truth from the class, and maybe from themselves, I knew it was time to force the issue.
The answer was quick and direct, but you could see my professor’s world crumble as they began to think about the implications of my question for their words, ideas and actions.
So what was the question? Simple and to the point.
“I can’t help notice you are kind of light (skinned), like me. Just wondering…
Are you mixed?”
T.K. follow TK’s Journey
P.S. – I received an invitation to join some type of business advisory board from my instructor. I replied that I would consider that invitation if they read and responded to this post. So far, no reply. Given my concerns about possible retaliation at school from my instructor, and the heated and ugly way race conversations occur in America, I’m unwilling to reveal my true identity at this point.
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