I am starting something new with my blog.
Several years ago, I began writing my memoir, Becoming a Chevelle. After sending several chapters to an editor, I was told that the stories in the book were charming, but what I had written wasn’t a true memoir–a memoir has to include an event that changed or transformed the author.
Of course, that disappointment led to my book, Mockingbird Moments. Thank goodness for rejection, right? I’m thankful things worked out the way they did, and I know I could never publish a book entitled, Becoming a Chevelle since Michelle Obama published Becoming. I promise, I’ve had that title since 2013. Anyway, I’ve decided to dust off some of the chapters of that unfinished book, and post them each week in my blog.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading the chronicles of my life which I will call, Re-Belle Like a Chevelle.
In this post, you’ll be introduced to Chevelle, and understand the far-reaching influence of a sassy first grader.
Re-Belle Like A Chevelle…
I spent several years as an elementary counselor and one of my “other duties as assigned” was that of morning hall monitor. If you are not in the world of education, you will never be able to understand both the importance and drudgery of this assignment.
In a perfect world, children would be able to go to their morning “before school starts” spot without anyone’s help or guidance and faculty and staff members would not look like members of a SWAT team who are in position, ready to spring into action at the first sign of trouble. I know I sound like Captain Obvious, but the truth of the matter is that the world of education is anything but perfect and there are many temptations along the way which cause students to stray from the rules, live life on the edge and challenge the system; thus, the creation of this necessary, ever-irritating, dreaded, monotonous thing called morning duty.
As a counselor, being assigned hall duty is extremely problematic. Counselors are to be advocates for students and should not be put in positions where they need to discipline. The counselor acting in the role of disciplinarian could easily cause a wall or barrier to form between the counselor and student, and could possibly lead to the student not feeling comfortable with approaching the counselor in a time of crisis or need. It’s not a law, but it is considered “Best Practices.”
Enforcing school rules is one thing, but there are times when students push the envelope and the long arm of the law is required. It was on such days that in the minds of the students, I transformed from being the sweet, kind, caring counselor, to the monster of the middle hall.
Imagine that our school building looked like a “capital E.” My morning duty spot was the middle horizontal line of the E. I was positioned at the intersection of the main hall and the middle hallway of the building. My job was to ensure that students getting off the bus went straight to breakfast without any “dilly-dallying or horse play.” Dilly-dallying/horse play included such things as running and playing in the hall, walking on the incorrect side of the hall, waiting for friends instead of going to the cafeteria, sneaking into one of the side hallways, as well as hiding in the restroom.
It was during my time on morning duty when I first met Chevelle. At first glance, Chevelle seemed like an ordinary elementary student, but as the days of hall duty passed, I began to think there was much more to Chevelle than the naked eye could ever reveal.
On the surface, she seemed as normal as most seven year olds, whatever normal may be, but there was a certain edge to her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. In many ways, Chevelle reminded me of a more beautiful version of “Ramona the Pest,” except her hair was a longer mess of tangles. The dress code at our school required uniforms and Chevelle usually wore a solid colored polo style uniform dress with droopy socks and tennis shoes, which were always untied.
Chevelle wasn’t a bad student, but at times, when provoked, she could unleash an attitude bigger than Dallas. Every morning, without fail, I always tried to smile and speak to Chevelle as she walked by my duty post. Some mornings, I might get a glare, or a smirk, or I might be completely ignored, which I think may have been a sign of endearment. It was clear Chevelle really didn’t give a hoot one way or another about me, and I was just another authority figure trying to tell her how to live her life.
After three days in a row of having to ask Chevelle to stop trying to sneak into the restroom, hide out, and wait on her friend, things came to a head. “Chevelle,” I said in an irritated tone, “You need to make your way to the cafeteria and stop trying to hide out in the restroom. I can see you. How many times do I have to remind you of this?”
As soon as these words resonated in her mind, Chevelle’s head slowly started turning to the left. Her eyes were slit in a full-fledged glare. Her jaw was clenched and her lips were tightly pursed together. When she was completely facing me, she shot daggers out of her eyes into mine.
Exasperated, she huffed and snorted, rolled her eyes and stormed off. She quickly scurried toward my friend, Allyson, who was at the next duty station, and as she passed by, Allyson asked “How are you today?” In complete and utter defiance, Chevelle blurted out, “The people at this school are really starting to piss me off,” and demonstrating a complete lack of fear and consequences, she marched onward to the cafeteria and never looked back.
Chevelle had no idea that her outburst from that day would become a mantra and battle cry for me and several of my closet friends. She had no idea of how closely we related to her completely over the top level of frustration; how she would become a muse for us, inspiring us to speak our minds, to express concern to those in positions of authority, and to do so boldly and unapologetically. Yes, what she said was completely inappropriate and a tad bit salty, especially for a first grader, but her attitude and confidence and the way she owned what she said ignited a fire within me and encouraged me to find my voice.
I have no idea where Chevelle is today and often wonder about her. Wherever she may be, though, I’m sure she’s speaking her mind and making sure that no one gets the best of her. My hope for Chevelle is that she has found some normalcy in this chaotic world and she will learn to use her attitude and confidence in such a way to evoke change and establish control in a positive manner.
May she learn to embrace and embody her strong-will and let nothing or no one break her spirit.
Long live Chevelle. What a beautiful mess.
Check back next week for the continuing adventures of Re-Belle Like A Chevelle…