RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - This is the time of year when I frequently speak to convocations of teachers. The focus is often on skills and behavior related to communication, consistency and care…of adults.
While in North Carolina last week I shared a lesson that I learned from my first dance as a principal. There were 2400 young people in the school…50% white and 50% black. The volunteer band consisted of eleven instruments…10 basses and one lead guitar. They were playing unintelligible and loud music.
Half way through the dance a young man, Tony, approached me and said, "that band is bad."
I responded, "They are loud."
He gave me a look and tried again.
"No sir, that band is bad."
I responded, "Tony, you are one of the more perceptive kids in this school."
You know what he looked like…one blue tennis shoe, another green…and jeans that appeared to have been beaten against a tree.
In a semi squat, he tried again…"Mr. B, that band is bad."
I responded, "Tony, I promise never to let them play again."
Since that night, I have told Tony that he taught me more about the English language in twenty seconds than I had learned as an English major in four years. He could use the same word, BAD; same intonation, BAD; same inflection, BAD, but mean two entirely different things.
Tony taught me that I could understand what he was saying by watching his eyes…BAD, BAD. That band is BAD…and mean good; that Mrs. Jones is BAD…and mean terrible.
What will we say when young people return to school, "Oh, it is great to have you back."…And when they come home will we say, "did you have a great day?" While not an exact science, what we say to young people with our eyes is far more powerful than our words…and they know it!!!