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The Back of The Bus

Dave Johnson
Dave Johnson

These Kids Willed Me to Succeed

When I grew up in Canada, unaware of the true meaning of those words and the heroism of Rosa Parks, I sat at the back of the bus.

I initially lost my hair at the back of my head.  I was a young teenager.  I was shy and this terrible unknown condition just pushed me further into hiding – to the back of the bus, to the back of the movie theatres, to the back of the classroom . . . to the back.

As most of us do, I survived.  But it was an incident – ten years later, in my year of “Teacher Education” after my degree – that made me thrive.  My hair was pouring out!  It was 1972 and I conformed to the university hair style with long locks – primarily to hide the patches!  And the biggest trauma of teacher education was fast approaching – the practicum: going into the classroom to face the motley mobs!

I was at a loss as to what to do. As a teacher, I couldn’t just stand at the front of the class and face the students continuously – I had to turn around to write on the blackboard!  And the kids would see my ugly patches.  And they would laugh – my great fear!

So I decided to ask one of my professors. This guy was an American. Classic buzz-cut marine type right out of the fifties!  And you just know what he thought about them damned hippies!  And I sure looked like one!!  So I asked him what to do.  He was confused at first and then I explained to him about my hair – or lack of hair – and then he understood.

“Just get a ‘normal’ haircut,” he said.  “You will be surprised at the reaction.”

I hummed and hawed.  But, finally I took his advice.  Now I had nowhere to hide.  I was exposed.  I was “out”!

And my first class was teaching the kids who were the problem kids.  The kids who didn’t do well in school and often became the bullies to compensate for their lack of success.  And here I was standing in front of them getting ready to face the ridicule.

No ridicule. No giggles. No laughter.

Only total cooperation. 

These kids saw me and they saw too that I was not “perfect”.  These kids willed me to succeed.  And I did.  And after class they wanted to know what was “wrong”.  I was very much part of their group.  They did not hide who they were either.  They faced ridicule everyday and they just gave the world the “finger” and said, “This is who I am.”

My lesson that day was that no one is “perfect”.  We all live with issues and problems that we often exaggerate beyond their significance.  And if we keep it all in perspective, a “little” hair loss is such a minor thing!

I eventually became “universalis” and have been hairless for 30 years now.  But I never sit at the “back of the bus”.  I am always front and center.  I always speak up and get noticed.  And I love it!


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