And so I now find myself acting as the de facto sponsor of--are your ready for this?--the school's African Club. How, you might ask yourself, does this happen to the whitest teacher in the building? That's the same question I'm asking myself. Here's how, maybe:
Yesterday after school, a familiar face showed up in my room. It was 4:30, I was helping a couple of students put the finishing touches on their presentations. "Bonjour," the visitor said. "Are you going to be here a while?"
"Not really," I said. "Why?"
"Do you mind if we practice in here? Only ten minutes. Please?"
This was a kid I met on a spring break trip to Paris two years ago. Great kid. Every time he sees me in the hall, he says something in French, as if I learned anything on that trip.
"Fine," I said. "But not for long. I need to get out of here soon, OK?"
And with that, eight African kids rolled in, plugged in a boom box, and started pushing student desks into corners. I always think my classroom must look and sound pretty incredible after school. Either kids are hanging out or presenting some assignment or I'm cranking loud punk rock or ... or I'm at my desk pretending to work with a group of kids dancing, really moving, to some amazing rhythms in the middle of the room.
Every spring our school hosts an international festival. Students from all over the world attend the school, and they show off their cultural pride by dressing up and dancing to some traditional music. Well, each group needs a sponsor. And a place to practice. For some reason, this is my second year helping out the African students. They're from various countries--Ghana, Kenya, Eritrea, and probably other places I never heard of until I started working where I work. I hoped that my room-as-rehearsal-space would be a temporary thing this year.
The ten minutes yesterday quickly turned into thirty, and I finally kicked them out at 5:15. They returned today. And when I finally forced them to leave, one of the girls said with a bright smile, "See you tomorrow!" And two or three voices chimed in, "Thank you!" How can I refuse?
"I just better be in the yearbook with you guys," I yelled to them. "And everyone can play a game: What's wrong with this picture? Who doesn't fit in?"