A Voice Grows with a Walk to the Front of the Class

By Cameryn Lacey

Cammi LaceyI walked through the rows of desks with my books clenched to my chest and the words “don’t fall” chanting in my head. The boys in the classroom were my friends; some were even considered close friends. However, the environment felt different.

It was my first day in Human Anatomy, of all classes. I have never been the only girl in a room of all boys, and I didn’t know how to conduct myself. Do I sit in the front of the class or in the back? Should I raise my hand or stay quiet? Could I ask for clarification or would everyone be annoyed?

The walk to the back of the classroom felt like a never-ending aisle. I wanted to turn around and run out of class, but that wasn’t an option. Instead, I sat down and counted down the minutes until class would be dismissed.

I pulled my notebook out and listened as the teacher explained the systems that make up the human anatomy. When I looked up at the board, I couldn’t see anything she was writing. The boy in front of me was so tall I could not maneuver myself around him. However, I was too scared to ask him to move, so I sat there staring at the back of his head.  When the teacher left the room to make copies, all the boys broke out into discussion about the game on TV last night. I knew nothing about the game that enraged them, so I twiddled my thumbs, praying that class would end.

The teacher returned and there were thirty minutes left. I realized I didn’t have one word written on the page. While staring at my notebook, I began to have an internal debate. I grappled with the idea of raising my hand to ask for help, but was nervous about how that would be perceived by my classmates. I didn’t want to be the girl who asked all the questions. After a long internal debate, I raised my hand and asked the teacher if it would be possible for me to switch with someone in the front.

“Sure,” she said.

That moment changed me. The uncomfortableness I faced fin that moment of reshman year served as a model for me to speak up. I learned how to take initiative for myself, how to do what was best for me and how not to seek approval from those around me. If I had continued to sit behind that boy I would not have learned anything. By asking to change seats, I took the first step. As minor as changing seats seemed, it changed everything for me. It became the reason I knew how to deal with offensive language when I arrived at my new all girl’s boarding school in my sophomore year.

I grew up in a household where the N-word was unacceptable; therefore I was surprised when I heard the N-word used at Miss Porter’s. Initially, I was unsure of how to react. I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble but I also felt disrespected. I decided to set up a meeting with the Dean’s office to discuss the situation. Although my part in the long run appears small and insignificant, ultimately the role I played was crucial. It led to a campus wide open conversation on offensive language. This much needed dialogue occurred because I chose to speak up about the problem

I have grown up a lot between since freshman year. I’m no longer that timid girl who was afraid of conflict. Instead I am the girl who is not ashamed to use her voice and speak up for herself and for what is right is my community. I was able to find my voice during that walk to the front of the classroom, and I refused to lose it.

 

Cameryn Lacey, a graduate of Miss Porter’s School, is a freshman the College of Charleston.