Fluent in Ebonics

Yesterday was my first day back to work, and I couldn’t be happier, despite the unpleasantness that morning. That school has such a profoundly positive effect on me. I take two busses there, and the alone time is relaxing. But the second I walk through that door, I feel the love and community there. Everyone is so pleasant and happy. My co-workers respect me and my boss appreciates me. The kids are always so glad to see me and are always telling me that they like my class the best. It’s one of the most wonderful parts of my life.

This week consists of educator’s professional development seminars and training.  I sat at a table with some of my favorite co-workers, the art teacher, the 3rd grade group leader, and the 4th grade group leader.  It’s my second school year there, and I’m becoming closer to the staff as time passes.  We were divided in groups based on our tables for our group activities.

The first activity was called “Number Knockout”.  You are given a 5 by 5 grid of random numbers.  The instructions are to use those numbers by addition, subtraction, multiplication, and / or division to get a predetermined number.  I am terrible at math.  It was up to the group to come up with as many number combinations as they could.  The mood in the room was light; everyone was joking and conversing.  When they were determining who won, I said, “Hey, we were at a serious disadvantage!  We have two fine arts teachers at the same table!”  Everyone laughed.

The next activity was called “Shorthand Code”.  The objective was to come up with as many phrases using only netcode – like CUL8R and B4UGO.  I hate using that.  I don’t use it in text, blogs, emails, or anything.  I am a person who seeks to preserve the correct use of the English language, instead of letting it disintegrate into grammatically incorrect, misspelled garble.  I thought it was going to be challenging.  But as soon as I got into it, I was unstoppable.  I kept churning them out.  And because of that, my group voted me as the one to present it, in front of everyone.  Yeah, you know I have anxiety.  But we were deemed the winners.

This led to the first racial joke I’ve encountered at work.  See, I work in an inner-city youth program in a predominantly African American community.  When I was hired, I was concerned that race may be an issue.  I’m one of four white people who work there.  It never has been.  They are an incredible, accepting community.  There, you are what you are.  If I seem quirky, they don’t care.  It’s just part of who I am.  They don’t suspect anything is wrong with me.  I’m T.M.  They always see the best in me.  I am enthusiastic, warm-hearted, friendly woman who is passionate about what I do.  I love it.

The point of the exercise was to help us understand the importance of positive, clear communication with our students.  This includes establishing expectations and providing clear instruction.  Which lead to a mention of Ebonics.  The presenter said, “T.M. seems to be fluent in Ebonics.  No clue how!”  Everyone roared with laugher, including me.  It seemed so, but I’m really not.  I am the whitest girl you’d ever meet.  My skin could rival Casper the Friendly Ghost, and I have white blonde hair.  I grew up in the suburbs, attended a school that was lucky to have 10 ethnic people in a graduating class of 247, and participated in extracurricular activities that did not include any participation from minority students.  Hell, I only knew one African American man in college!

I guess I can be proud.  I am not only a decent writer, a good musician, an excellent vocalist, I am also fluent in Ebonics. Ha!

I hope today is as great as yesterday!