Truthfully, I do not know what happened to Dexter. One thing that I have learned about being a school bus driver in low income, impoverished communities is that students come and go. Dexter was a unique student that stood out amongst his peers. He is a brilliant young man with unlimited potential. Not only is he a smart kid, he is also well mannered and well dressed. There is no doubt that Dexter is going somewhere in life. In fact, I believe that he aspires to become a lawyer or politician, because every time I saw him he carried his leather filing folder for debate team. I had an opportunity to speak with him about the debate team and one can easily see that he is passionate about social issues and coming up with solutions. I was impressed with Dexter and I knew that this Title I school had a precious jewel on its hands.
Backdrop: My bus route is located in a low-income, high crime area of the city. Many of the young men and women have little hope or aspiration of escaping their circumstances. The defeated/conceding mindset follows the students on the bus and into the schools. Students have learned that there is more value in their street status than education. There are a limited amount of promising students such as Dexter.
Now, the other boys on the bus within this community looked favorably upon Dexter. They know that he is going somewhere in life, so they never bullied the kid, but rather they edified him in a destructive way that would "sucker punch" a kid who's trying to do well in school. You see the boys knew that he was brilliant and did well in academics, so they called him "The Brain," "Einstein," or "Teacher's Beloved." The kid was highly praised by the teachers, so you would hear students say "Don't mess with that one, the Principal will "bring down the bows," if you do." In addition, they became like leeches, because they knew that he was a good resource to help them out on their classwork or homework. Everyday, the boys that skip class would ask him for homework assignments and if they could copy his work.
As a bus driver from the outside looking in, I would have thought that Dexter was a school celebrity, because he had everything going for him! He was smart as well as the teachers and students adored him. Well, one day as I was doing my "bus check," I found a small girl's pink-flowered book bag. When I discovered the bag I was like, "Ah, gee....one of my children left their bag and now I have to go back and return it to the primary school," so I looked in the bag to see if I could find a name of whom the bag belonged to. What I found instead was Dexter's leather filing case for debate team. I was rather perplex to why a boy would want to carry a girls pink bookbag to school?
Disclaimer: I have been medically diagnosed with pink-o-phobia, so therefore you could not pay me $200 to carry a pink bookbag back to an all male middle and high school, and the school have cameras too! Oh, no, my "MAN pride" was not about to get busted that day...lol. Dexter would have to retrieve his bag himself that afternoon.
I was still perplexed about the pink bookbag, when I remembered a youtube video of Bill Cosby talking about education. Bill Cosby referenced a conversation that he had with a young boy (also from a poor community) not doing his homework. The kid told him he did not want to do his homework, because the other kids told him that he was trying "To be White." Of course, Bill Cosby went on a rant on the jeopardy of this upcoming generation who identifies a good education as a course for "white people" and other races who want to be like "white people." Cosby pointed out that education is for everyone and if we escape our circumstances, then we can't place racial colors on education.
It dawned on me that Dexter was hiding the fact that he was brilliant by placing his debate brief in a child's bag. Being identified as "The Brain" was taking it toll on him. My opinion is that Dexter wanted to be a normal student with a normal life. He no longer saw his identification as "The Brain" as a place of entitlement, but rather a place of ridicule and unwanted privilege. I have learned that there are people who desire to be treated normal though they are special. He felt that as long as he carry this lawyer's brief, he would not be able to escape the glorified special treatment, so he hid his brilliance in a childish place, a book bag. I can honestly say that being brilliant in a Title I community can be just as terrorizing as a student being bullied. I have discovered that hateful students can "turn their nose up" toward those who exhibits great promise in academia. Though they may label them as "nerds" or "teacher's pets" in a positive light, there is an underlying attitude of spite projected towards these high achieving students due the defeated mindset deep within the attitude of these communities.
I have chosen to share this story with the Atlanta Public Schools’ community because this defeated mindset within our students needs to be combatted. There needs to be saturated prayer for our students that they begin to believe in themselves and that they can either escape the poverty mindset or bring prosperity to the minds and hearts of their community. If your child is a promising high performing academic student, then tell the young man or young woman to hold his or her head up high. It is important for one to keep shining his or her light, be strong, and encourage others that liberty begins with a new mindset. Lastly, Parents communicate with your child! Find out if your child is being ridicule or placed under a lot of social pressure for being smart.
Shortly after discovering the school bag, Dexter no longer rode my bus. I am not sure if he changed bus routes, changed schools, or lost sight of his goals. It is my hope that he received an opportunity to attend a high achieving charter school. In such a school, he would be able to escape the Title I “celebrity” status of being brilliant by being in a safe place where he can be a normal student with high academic success.