My Experience at Tam as a Student of Color
This was submitted by a student not in The Tam News.
One foot in front of the other I keep telling myself, don’t trip and embarrass yourself. The big yellow bus I will call my second home for the next 2 years pulls up to the curb. I hear murmurs of people wondering who I am over my blaring earbuds. I find the first open seat, the bus has single person seats on the left side and double seats on the right. I happen to get a double, an open spot next to a very tall blonde surfer-washed face freshman. I long to introduce myself as I want to ease the transition into this new school I am so nervous because I am coming in as a junior and that’s when everyone in high school has established their friend groups and girlfriends. I will be an outsider for sure I think to myself.
“Hey im Jody, I’m sorta the new kid,” I say nervously to blonde.
“I met you already on the beach fool,” he says annoyed.
Well, I’m never talking to him again and I put my earbud back in. I watch the trees fly by the bus window, a soothing site as the melodies of Bryson Tiller bounce around my head. I close my eyes for what feels like three seconds and I feel the bus come to a stop. I step off the last step onto the curb, I’m standing on the curb of Tamalpais High School, 2pac went here. My aunt’s voice rings in my head. I need to find the counselor’s office to pick up my schedule. I walk into the office and the secretary greets me, “Hello, how can I help you today?”
“Hi I’m new, my name is Jody Thompson and I’m here to pick up my schedule.”
¨Ok wait here, a counselor will be right with you.”
I sit in the waiting chair, I wait in the chair for about 10 minutes before I hear my name called over my music. I stand up and rip the buds out of my ears. I walk down the open corridor to the office of my new counselor. The nameplate reads Napolitano, a name I struggle to sound out. The door is wide open.
¨Hi Jody, my name is Mr Napolitano, but you can call me Brian.¨ his hand extended as if looking for a firm handshake. We meet hands and I see a smile climb his teeth.
Our conversation stilts along, made up of awkward eye contact and twiddling thumbs. He hands me my schedule, and with one more awkward handshake we say goodbye. I walk back along the corridor to the secretary’s desk and she stops me before I reach the door.
“Oh wait there we will have someone come and show your around, He should be in here any minute just take a seat again.”
I sit back down in the chair for 5 minutes and a tall pimple faced boy walks into the office, off the way he looks I’m hoping he is not my tour guide. But he turns to me with an emotionless face and waves me in his direction. We leave the office and he says.
“Yo what’s your 1st period?”
“Sucks, with who?”
“He must be new, what math?”
“Oh yeah, ok, that’s over here.”
We walk up stairs and then outside to a courtyard with a fountain that looks like the water stop flowing through a decade before. We walk between two buildings and down a hill towards a three story building. I realize the campus is way bigger than my previous small town school in New York. We exchange no further conversation. He walks me to the door of my classroom and then leaves with a faint “peace bro” and I walk into what appears to be mayhem, full of freshman and sophomores. I feel out of place. I search for a seat far in the back. Walking to my seat I notice that there are no black kids in the class. The teacher seems distracted so I am extremely happy that there will be no “hey class we have a new student joining us today.” Then I realize in a freshman and sophomore class everyone will be new so there will be no introduction. I sit in the farthest desk from the whiteboard. I catch a few confused looks from students that seem to show I don’t belong in the class. In creating my schedule my counselor had said that I need the class to graduate so I don’t mind the looks. I sit in the desk for a few minutes before the teacher notices me not working, He walks over.
“Hey what’s your name?”
“Jody, I’m a junior but I moved here from New York and haven’t taken a geometry course yet.”
“Well welcome aboard Jody, right now we are working on this classwork, I’m just trying to get a gage and see what everyone knows. So answer what you can and hand it in at the end of the period.”
“That I can do.”
He hands me the sheet, I work on the sheet struggling through some problems that I understand parts of. Skipping a few questions I print my name on the sheet and hand it in.
“Ok class a good first day, I will look over these tonight and we will go accordingly tomorrow. Have a good rest of your day.”
The bell rings and I am now in the shuffling crowd of kids trying to leave the room. When I get to the door I notice that everyone seems to be going to the same place. We have a 15 minute break in between classes so I assume it’s a cafeteria of some sort. I follow the crowd and we come upon a large outdoor theater type of setting with a building that has glass doors on the bottom. Inside you can see a lounge area, vending machines, a few classrooms and bathrooms, as well as a food serving area. An odd discovery I make to myself. Why is it that all the black kids are standing and sitting inside and all the white kids are standing and sitting outside? There are a few outsiders who mingle in between the segregated areas. Because I do not know anyone and, am coming from a very diversified school, where we all hung out together I hesitate. Then I find myself moving towards the black kids. I am mixed and am wearing a pair of Jordans I assume I will fly better with the minorities. They can relate to me better, I think to myself. It was as I thought I walk into the building and sit down in a cushioned chair, and I’m already asked about my shoes and accepted. The rest of the day is a blur of introductions and awkward smiles. Until I get into what I think is my favorite class, history. I walk into the classroom and immediately notice there are no black kids. I find the first open desk and sit, then a short very dark boy walks in.
“Yose!!!” says a curly haired white boy.
“Hey bruh whats up?”
Did he say toes or yose? I think to myself.
As the year goes on i venture out of my shy nature and start making friends. One of them is Yose. we were paired up for a project and cliqued.
“Hey Yose don’t you think it’s weird that there aren’t any black teachers here.”
“Yea dude kinda weird like I feel like if I was getting bullied for being African and complained to a teacher they wouldn’t understand.”
Just one of the many conversations we have.
“Hey Yose what do you think about the counselors here ?”
“What do you mean ?”
“Well like when I first came here and was making my schedule the counselor kinda brushed over programs and things that I might be interested in. like AIM I found out about that from Jacob Kline.”
“I mean yea maybe they should be going into detail about all the programs like that’s they’re job. But it might not be racially motivated.”
“Ok so then tell me about your counselor experience.”
“Well there was nothing like that but they did leave out the AP course stuff. I had to ask my teachers about how to get into my AP classes.”
“And you don’t think that’s racially motivated? They don’t think you have potential to succeed in AP classes so they don’t mention it, I believe that’s based on race, no?”
“Actually yea I see what you’re saying.”
After having these in depth conversations with my African friend I feel uncomfortable with the administration at Tam. Me being a senior and about to graduate I feel that it’s their job to present me with every opportunity no matter my race. I have a right to access and they have a mandate to provide it.