Hallways of Trouble and Classrooms of Success

By: Jakobi Jackson

2014-05-02-PD_0151Scene One: The Hallway of Trouble. “Hey you, I heard you were talking about me, bitch!” Mya yelled. She rushed straight to Susan and punched her in the nose. A large crowd encircled them as they scratched, kicked and punched each other. By the time security arrived ten minutes later, the hands of both girls were in each others’ weaves. They were both sent to the holding room.

Scene Two: The Classroom of Success. “Oh, really then, why do you have slaves running away or committing suicide if slavery is so positive?” Frederick Douglas says to a Southern farmer. Actually, I say that to Ian, my classmate. I am Frederick Douglas and he is the farmer in a class debate in AP US History.

“Well, those slaves are ignorant and wild, which is another reason why slavery should stay, to straighten the slaves for their bad behavior,” Ian, the Southern farmer counters.

“Alright alright that’s enough Jakobi and Ian,“ says Mr. Barry, our teacher who played President Buchanan. “Good supporting ideas and interpretation. You guys had a really heated argument.”

The bell rings and my classmates and I are going back into Scene One, the Hallway of Trouble. We may see a fight on the way. But in five minutes, we will be safe in AP Literature where we will discuss Death of a Salesman with the high level of engagement that characterized our staged debate on slavery.

My mind separates Stamford High into two schools or even two worlds: the Classroom of Success and the Hallway of Trouble. I am a full citizen of the Classroom of Success. As an African American male,  I am  a minority in this school. In all of my classes,  there are rarely more than two black students among the white and Asian majority in this school. Yet in the Hallways of trouble, I am part of the racial majority: 60 percent of the students at the school are black or Hispanic. I often feel like a foreigner in the halls and am careful not to bump into anyone or sport a facial expression that might incite someone to attack me.

There was a time when I wanted to be stereotyped as bad. In middle school and my first year in high school I always wanted to fit in the cool crew that made it to all the parties.  I even did a few things to win acceptance in that group: I wore sagging pants and disregarded my grades. I remember the moment when I truly decided that I belonged in the Classroom of Success rather than the Hallway of Trouble. I was a sophomore when I heard the cannon. “Boom.” It touched the ground blowing up soldiers on the battlefield. “We Need More Ammo,” the soldiers said in German as they ducked for cover.

I was a sophomore in a history class when we watched a documentary that explored both World War ll and the Cold War. It turned on a switch in my head that made me love history. I still can’t turn it off. I want to become a history teacher or professor. My parents had been pushing me to engage in the Classrooms of Success since I placed into top classes. They pushed me to avoid the “crabs in the bucket,” their description of the “cool” kids in the other school. However I was the one that made the decision to become a citizen of the Classroom of Success when I realized history was my passion.  Ultimately, the liveliness of the classroom drew me into that school–not my parents’ demands.

There are a total of 2,000 students at Stamford High. In my junior year, I saw how I can still easily be mistaken for a student in the Hallway Of Trouble. I misplaced the room number of the yearbook club meeting on the first meeting date.

“Hi, excuse me,” I say to a secretary in the main office

“Hi, what do you want?”  She responded with an annoyed look on her face.

“I am looking for the yearbook room, do you know the room number it would be in?”

She looks surprised. “Don’t you have class? Why are you going to the yearbook room?”

I told her I had study hall, but she refused to check the list for the room number. I wandered the halls looking in rooms for the meeting. Fortunately, I found the group and avoided any trouble in the hallway.

   The Hallway of Trouble sometimes provides the entertainment for students in the Classroom of Success. I often arrive to class early and here my classmates talking about the fight or crazy behavior they witnessed in the hallway. “Did you see that?” or “That was crazy!” Another is, “This fight was intense!”

“Wow did you see her, oh my god she is crazy.” They sometimes jokingly alter their voices in a dialect they hear in the hallway and laugh outside of the view of any members of the Hallway of Trouble. In those moments, I realize our little school may be invisible to students of the Hallway of Trouble. Unfortunately, years later, those students may wish they knew there was a school like The Classroom of Success, which is so close yet so far away from their world.

Jakobi Jackson is a graduate of Stamford High School and is currently a sophomore at American University.


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