An offshoot of Ed Trust’s Echoes From the Gap series, drawing stories of students from behind the statistics, this blog series shares shorter narratives — brief glimpses into classrooms and hallways — that give readers an opportunity to examine educator practices and policies through the intimate lens of student experience. All stories are based on interviews or first-hand accounts, but are shared with respect for the privacy of students and the adults around them.

They were all broken.

The clocks.

Arms lifeless, faces in rusted metal cages suspended on painted cinderblock walls.

And that’s how they stayed, day after day, year after year.

In homeroom, his classrooms, the main office, and the cafeteria.

As if time was of no concern for them.

As if it were only a matter of waiting for the inevitable.

As if school was an alternate planet on a whole different rotational schedule around the sun than the world outside it.

That the world would freeze on its axis and wait for them to catch up.

First period, science, it was already — and forever — 11:15. Despite knowing this, he couldn’t help the repeated glances upward from the fill-in-the-blank worksheets that never seemed to inspire the lifelong learning-inducing detective work they were supposed to.

Second period, English, it was 1:03 — well, somewhere between 1:03 and 1:04, depending on his location in the room. He debated this as the teacher wrote shallow, fact-based questions on the board asking him to demonstrate little beyond that the assigned chapter in his tattered book had been read.

By lunchtime, he had no idea, beyond the weight of his eyelids, how much time had elapsed.

In the afternoon, it was always 9:13 in PE and 3:46 an hour later in social studies.

He stopped noting the worth of time.

Stopped cherishing each moment.

Stopped wondering what learning the next would bring.

Stopped understanding that this time was his — to prepare for all he hoped to achieve.

He was doing time at a standstill.

Matriculating through the malaise that was school.

The hard-won promise of education now threadbare on parchment.

Thurgood Marshall, a hastily stenciled mural in the entryway just past the metal detectors, painted on Dr. King day by well-heeled, well-meaning volunteers who had never attended schools like his.

Little Rock, a pebble whose ripple didn’t reach him.

Brown v. Board, his dark skin against the chalkboard.

The dream, something he cradled at night, but didn’t dare carry in its fragile casing to school with him.

And he’s waiting for someone to remind him.

Waiting for someone to believe that his moments in school mean something.

That the things he’s learning are the threads that will help him cross to tomorrow.

Waiting for someone to see that his time is precious.

Waiting in school, where the clocks stand still and time is running out.

Related Content