By Lindsay Cherry
The year I was in third grade, we were taught to write in cursive. To my young mind, cursive writing was “fancy.” I couldn’t wait to learn to make the fun swoops and dips with my pencil, concentrating, brow furrowed, to get my penmanship “just so.” Little did I know that the simple act of writing a name on a chalkboard would change my life.
On the day that we began cursive writing practice, my teacher Mrs. Klavor stepped up to the chalkboard and wrote several students’ names on the board. Mine was one of them. As I watched the letters of my name flow from that piece of chalk onto the board, it was magic! And then, Mrs. Klavor turned and remarked, “Lindsay is a beautiful name.” It was the first time a teacher had taken notice of me at school. And it was certainly the first time anyone had called me “beautiful” within the walls of the educational system.
You see, Mrs. Klavor was White. And I am Black. And in 1995, as a Black girl who was adopted by White parents, I attended an all-white school in a deeply religious, conservative community. While learning cursive, I had a moment that would impact me for the rest of my life. For Mrs. Klavor, I am sure it was just another lesson, but for me it was a moment I didn’t know I needed; a meaningful moment that would set the trajectory for my life as an educator.
Mrs. Klavor’s brief comment sparked hope in me. I was noticed in a positive way and acknowledged as being beautiful within the school system. I sat up a little straighter, felt a little prouder, and smiled. And right then and there a seed was planted: I would become a teacher! Although it would be many years (with many challenging hurdles to overcome) eventually I succeeded: I am now a middle school Language Arts teacher. And I’ve made it my mission to ensure that Black students have access to what they need to succeed. I call it the Trilogy of Success. My husband and I feel so strongly about supporting Black Youth that we started an organization called I Am Academy.
To those of you reading this, please know that words matter. Helping a disenfranchised youngster see their worth matters. Sometimes, a small act of kindness can make a big difference.
About the author: Lindsay Cherry is middle school teacher, a married mother of five and the co-founder of I Am Academy, which partners with area schools to empower Black adolescents and young adults to achieve their full potential by assisting their development, cultivating relationships, supporting educational success, providing collegial experiences, and facilitating job readiness. Visit their Facebook and Instagram pages to learn more.