Julia Shields headshot

Julia Shields

Lane High School and Charlottesville High School

I had two Black kids in an advanced English class I had. And they were wonderful kids but one of them misbehaved a lot. And I remember calming him down one day and he responded with an expletive. And I said, “Okay, we’ve got to talk after class.” And it was the most satisfying talk I think I’ve ever had. First of all, he opened up about, didn’t I understand how nervous he felt being one of only two Black kids in the class? And I said, “I’m ashamed to say no, I didn’t think about it.” And I said, “You’re the smartest kid in this room. And I just didn’t think about your feeling insecure.” And anyway, we talked, we got along, it cleared the air, and I thought it was good for him to know that I recognized how smart he was, and I’m sure that helped him overcome some of his discomfort, and it was way good for me to realize that I was being awfully blind to how hard that must be.