Monday I spent the morning talking to around 250 seventh and eighth grade boys, at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School. Aside from being interviewed, signing autographs, and being told that I was “the Lil Wayne of poetry” the most incredible thing I experienced that day had to do with how the principal got all these pubescent boys to sit quietly.
At the beginning of the event, naturally the young men were rowdy, jumping around, slapping each other in the back of the head, and doing what young boys do…everything opposite of siting down and being quiet. It was a typical anti-sit down demonstration in there.
“Gentleman!” the Principal, an old school, but fairly young black man, “Gentleman! Have a seat!”
They all scurried to those “middle school orange” seats (as opposed to middle school green) bumping and pushing to sit next to their, awkward, funny looking partners in crime. (I swear middle school kids look deformed. It’s like their entire faces…are soft spots.)
“Now, we all know that we are far too intelligent for me to have to speak to you anymore, or make any other announcements about your behavior during this session of ‘Men Make a Difference.'” He walked between the chairs, Joe Clark style.
“Am I right?”
The boys spoke clearly, a resounding, “Yes.”
“We are far too intelligent to be disrespectful, to Mr. Reynolds. Am I right?”
He nodded at me, and my two friends, Bill and Tony who introduced and interviewed me on stage.
That’s it. There were no problems.
Not because they didn’t want to act up, but because they had been given a charge, and acting up would make them seem less intelligent amongst their peers. Intelligence was the ploy. The principal had figured out a way to make intelligent, and respectful, the cool thing to be. Amazing.
Now…about calling me “the Lil Wayne of poetry,”…little youngin’ was lucky he was 12. I’m kidding. I guess in teenspeak, there’s no compliment bigger. And…I appreciate it.