Can You Spare a Dime?

I was on my favorite part of “Butter” by BTS when I noticed you walking by.

I don’t know if this is unique to being a Black male (it is) —

but for me there is always a dilemma.

Do I wave to make you feel safe or do I avoid eye contact to make you feel safe?

Today, like every other day and every couple of footsteps, I made a choice.

You see, I was feeling great.

I was feeling the lyrics of my favorite 7 people spread over me,

my weight loss goals slowly making progress,

the joy of running into a speech kid moments before,

and the simultaneous relief and exhaustion of students pulling up their grades.

So, I took a leap of faith and pulled up my head and hand to wave —

a signal of solidarity —

that we’re both out here

chasing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on constitution trail —

or at the very least — health and sunshine.

But…the way you clutched onto your purse,

the way you tucked it under your arm and then moved it to your other side,

and the way your eyes shot daggers that pierced my posture and soul as you sped up,

helped me understand the phrase, “if looks could kill.”

And the handful of others who continued to follow suit….

their eyes told me more than I needed to feel today.


I get it.

I came home to an email that left me robbed of thousands.

But that was from people I trust,

people I know.


You don’t know me.

You just think you do.

You were never in danger of being robbed,

and you have absolutely nothing I could ever want…

except the freedom to exist,

to matter.

And the freedom to run FROM my problems

not alongside them.


22: A Eulogy to Career Politicians (Re: 21)


I don’t know about you,

but I’m feeling 22

was an odd year for me.

And even as you stood in front of us,

claiming to be an ally that year, I knew.

I knew today would come.


I’ll lie and say I believed you.

The truth is, I didn’t sign up to be a politician.

Yet 22, was also the age I had to grapple with

yet another school shooting,

Yep, another year of drills

Yep, a front seat at the auction

selling bits of my identity

that knew teaching was political.

So I guess you’re right.

When it came to my core values,

it was always a Catch-22.

But my people have survived plenty of auctions.

And we’re ready to rewrite the rules.

You comin’, Massa?

21: An Open Letter to Rep. Tom Demmer (and Friends)

I wanted to believe you were misquoted

but the 21 seconds of audio

Noted that (even in ’21) you feel the need to speak on MY space…

And just like MySpace, Tom, I didn’t ask for this connection.

But Google News kept putting these 21 seconds into my feed

So I feel the need

to address the fear,

the confidence,

that venom

behind your voice when you said “student advocacy” with disgust. 

And I trust

that what you meant by 

“normal and responsible teacher” does not include

The 38,000 Black teachers pushed out by  Brown v. Board of Education —

Victims of the same “systems of oppressions” you view as progressive politics.

See Tom, my friend. 

You can’t play politics with lives.

Stop adding hits to a profession still planning a remake 

When COVID-19 is promoting a remix.


The closer you get to 21, it’s okay to stand.

But don’t just stand at the beginning of a game

full of Black and Brown faces.

Stand for the Black and Brown voices too.

Or bust. 

Rally to Demand Black Education in Schools (Next Gen Initiative, Bloomington-Normal, IL)

My name is Brandon Thornton and I teach kids at Bloomington HS.  I say “kids” because often times we use WHAT we teach as an excuse to not talk about current events, politics, human rights or, in this case, race. So, if you’re a teacher, and you’re struggling to figure out how you’re going to unpack the traumatic events of the summer with your students — it’s simple.  Remember WHO you teach.  You teach kids (some of which have been living through trauma for their entire lives). 

Many of our students have organized events like this, many of them have spoken at board meetings or worked with administrators on diversity action plans, and many of them are organizing fundraisers, resources, and campaigns online.  And some, are actively working against these movements, while some are on the sidelines trying to understand if they should even care. 

In a few weeks, all of those kids will come together.  And before we teach the quadratic formula, or Shakespeare, or the Periodic Table, it’s SO important that we all create a space where kids can make sense of everything.  

Some in this community will call this indoctrination.

But to me, indoctrination is not learning about who Columbus really was until college — on my own.  To me, indoctrination is being told by teachers and peers that slang was less, ghetto, unprofessional in comparison to “proper English.”  And that speaking proper equates to whiteness and I should wear that whiteness like a badge of honor. To me, indoctrination is learning about Black history on my own, at age 31. 

But what I’ve realized, after watching TikToks all summer, listening to R&B influences and watching Hip-Hop choreography within K-Pop, or seeing how most kids on TV or in school dress, style their hair, and speak…is that Black history is not only the past, it’s now.

It’s current events and it’s the future.  Blacks have and will continue to contribute to our way of life.  The problem is, we only hear about them if they’re on a stage, screen or court. 

There are so many other firsts for Blacks.  Scholars. Inventors. Astronauts.

My first black teachers, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Mikel, are the reason I teach today — as a part of the 2% of teachers across the country who are black males.  And I can’t help but think about where I would be today if I read books, or heard lessons, or did assignments discussing other “firsts” beyond just Rosa Parks, Malcom X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  (think Tulsa and learning that Blackness and affluence were seen as a threat and essentially the cause of its’ downfall).

How would those moments have shaped opinions of my peers who were often shocked I was in Honors classes? How would hearing these parts of Black history help break down stereotypes so that there would be no confusion of what we mean when we say, “Black Lives Matter.”  

All of our schools in McLean County have mission statements about preparing students to become lifelong learners or global citizens — and they can’t possibly accomplish this without teaching them how to engage in the world around them. 

And if you’re not in the humanities, you’re probably thinking, what can I DO? Well, since we’re teachers, and we love acronyms, imagine that DO stood for something — let’s say, “D” is for dismantle and “O” is for oppression.  

Dismantle Oppression.  

Don’t wait for permission, make your “DO Now” list tonight and focus on how you’re going to dismantle oppression in your school.  It could be working to ensure Black, Indigenous, families of Color have the same educational opportunities in your classroom and building.  It could be making sure that your discipline, routines, and expectations promote equity, regardless of race, class, gender, ability, or sexual orientation, and that they hold up regardless if we’re face to face or teaching through Zoom.  It can be whatever amplifies the voices of all students (not just the majority) — whatever it is, just DO Now.  

And parents, many teachers in this community already have a DO Now agenda. They have for years.  So, if you’re reading this back on Facebook or getting the highlights from someone who is here, I want you to give teachers the same grace you give lawyers, doctors, and other professionals when they do what’s best for the people in their care.  

We’ve got this.  And we need you to have us too. 

When we say, “it takes a village,” this is what we mean.  More so now than ever, we need you to become a part of our village. 

But if your only intent is to gentrify it, then no thanks. 

Commitment to Teach More Black Education in McLean County Schools

WGLT Coverage

WJBC Coverage

25 NEWS – WEEK Coverage

The Vidette Coverage

Next Gen Initiative Facebook Page

Normal West BSU Facebook Page

Fake Love

I don’t blame you for covering yourself in insecurity.

It’s winter.

But when the sun comes out — tomorrow.

All that will remain is the mud you’ve kicked, and flicked and licked and ewww.

How tasteless?

Why would you run about so…carelessly?

It’s slippery.

WE’RE slippery.

And I don’t want to fall anymore.

Maybe this salt will help.

Mask Off

I grew up following HOV

but never stopped celebrating October 31st,

the first in my fam to rock a rainbow colored mask.

It did its job until it didn’t.

Still, this mask was special,

one of a kind to many.

And too many were quick to misinterpret my mask as fun when it was really anything but comedy — some of deez

Nuts are still struggling to grasp the humor in life because their hands are painfully wrapped around Bud or bud.

But bud you gotta realize that it’s just masking tape. You can let go.

Not in the way the songs do.

But the same way I do.

It’s never too late to put love on top.

Not your job,

not your ex,

just yourself.

Baby, it’s you. 🎶

Digital Love

You said, “send pics”.

So here’s the naked truth-

The Gram is for feelings.

Facebook? My memes.

My PLN Twitter is a whole other me.

My finsta is private.

My DMs deleted.

This Grindr is active.

My spirit depleted.

I hope I’ve painted you a good picture.

Anyway, how about you?

Oh, you’re offline.

James Charles

The dust has settled but the salt remains.

So, let’s use it to rinse their filthy mouths.

Here, use my makeup to distract you from your hurt.

Concealer is perfect to hide those

blemishes — you know…the straight guys that wanted all of you except your kisses.

Next is the blush for the boy who held your hand and called you f** when you reached for his.

Yikes, you should’ve known better you predator.

That’s okay, you have a bit of highlighter left for your coming out.

That’s it! Now you’re glowing….

But could you just dim a little, you’re being too loud. I liked you better when you were cool.

Cool? Okay, last step. You’ll be good at this one. Use a little bit of mascara just in case he’s not gay. You’ll have a black eye but THOSE LASHES THO!

The eye liner? Oh, that’s for when he’s gay but not into you. Keep this stocked. Because eyes are the best concealer of vanity — our fatal flaw.

Ah, now you see!

The problem with James Charles is that James Charles is me.

James Charles is you too.

Be careful, James.


I have found that the best place to hide my thoughts is in my words.

Not in the books that I read or the stanzas I write but the words…

The words that I bite as I chew on the yes.

Cuz it’s nice to feel wanted and yes I never wanted

to play hide and seek —

cuz arts and crafts were more of my jam.

And by jam I mean beats, K-Pop, and Bach

while I eat, crafting words that show that I’m not


And stressed

And less than the me

I dreamed, I screamed, I knew I would be….

by now.

So I cover my eyes with your likes, reacts, your snaps and your crap that cleverly deny

the real me

that seeks the fake you.

And the moment I do, I yell olly, olly, oxen free — because I can’t make time for me, while socially promoting B when I have to be, professionally —T.

It’s almost poetic.

And pathetic how you can be surrounded by love and shivering with loneliness.


These ideas are not mutually exclusive —

And someday I’d like to be somewhat exclusive

But, 3…2…1. Time.

Ready or not? Here I come!


2:34 AM


Today one of my favorite students reminded me AGAIN that I’m “not really black.”

And I admit, this time it stings.

It stings that he believes that our blackness is a choice.

It stings that at 15 he believes blackness and education to be mutually exclusive.

But, most of all, it stings that — at 15 — I viewed those words as a compliment…wore them like a badge,

a get out of jail free card,

a VIP pass.

Because what else do you do when someone proudly proclaims that you do not exist?

But I know too much now.

I know that we are just as essential as bees,

just as desired…

yet, just as endangered.

And I admit, that stings too.

But not as much as the whips, rocks, and stares those before me had to endure for me to be able to write this now, for me to be able to teach him tomorrow, and for him to be able to hold that basketball I proudly watch him shoot.

And…yeah, I know that us bees should stick together…

But right now, I hope he’s reading this.

And I hope it stings.

This is Me.

To every student who visits me on Fridays at 2:16 PM, I’m sorry.

In the future, please look for warning signs.

If my door stopper isn’t in, it means (a) I failed in getting my kids to not line up at the door and they kicked it across the hall, or (b) I had to close my door because of the noise.

If that’s the case, the following steps are even more important:

If I’m sitting at my desk, walk around the perimeter of the room and chant “T” three times. That usually breaks the spell. Avoid words like, “retake”, “missing”, and…actually just avoid words.

If I’m counting calculators or moving desks, it means I’m dissatisfied with my classroom management for the day and am projecting my insecurities onto inanimate objects. You would think that because my love language is “acts of service”, I would want help tidying up but…no. Just let me have this brief moment of control.

If I’m eating chocolate (I hate chocolate), then I worked through lunch again and I’m hangry. Distract me by talking about anime, speech team, or your hopes and dreams. I may even share my candy.

If I’m talking to my co-teacher and we’re both displaying similar signs, then leave a can of Mountain Dew at the door and RUN.

If you make it in after 2:20 PM, then you’re good! Those 5 minutes of recovery are essential so I can match my face to the heart that loves you unconditionally.

You may also need to differentiate this plan for other teachers. Hopefully I’ve done a good job showing you how that’s done!

With love,


Woke Me

Woke me doesn’t get any likes.

Woke me leaves you scrolling –

trolling through fake news to find inspiration for your fake comments.

Woke me sits at the tip of your tongue.

But you don’t like the taste so you chew and you spit me out because woke me is just too much.

Instead, woke me should stop being so divisive.

Woke me should just be grateful.

Woke me is just too political.

Woke me should be careful.

Woke me is just too loud.

Be quiet woke me.  Be quiet.

Woke me is tired.


Wake me when you’re done dreaming.

An Open Letter to Myself (10 Years Ago)

Alright! So you’ve done it!  You’ve embarked on this journey to become an educator…and before I go on, let me start by saying you definitely made the right decision!

But there are going to be bumps. 

And anyone who knows anything about time travel knows I can’t share too much.  So, we won’t get into specifics. 

There are just some things I wanted you to know as a future survivor of the “50% of teachers leave in their first 5 years” statistic.

It’s 2008.  You are a student leader.  You’re out, loud, and proud!  But…someday you’re going to be an adult — an adult teacher.  Unfortunately, part of that means putting everything that made you a student leader — your refusal to accept the status quo, your distaste for discrimination and ignorance, and ironically everything your teachers instilled in you — into a box.  Instead, you will have to lead by example and HOPE that the students get from you what they need.  Most times, it won’t be math.  But you know that.  That’s why you chose to teach.  Don’t ever forget that.  Ever.  

It’s 2008.  You know absolutely nothing about politics.  Somehow, you’ve managed to secure a spot as an on-campus senator.  Everyone around you has aspirations in law or politics.  You just want to help your Redbirds.  You’re not even registered to vote because politics has absolutely nothing to do with education.  I will let you believe that now because….time travel jargon.  But this is just the beginning for you.  Remember that box?  You will get a chance to open it.  It’ll just have to be weeknights and weekends…and will be in the back rooms of bars or nooks of libraries.  You’re actually reading Hunger Games right now.   You identify with Peeta because you’re hopelessly single.  But there are other characters that you should be paying attention to. 

It’s 2008.  For some reason, the school shooting at NIU rocked you.  You’ve pledged to never let that happen in your future classroom.  Remember this.  But also remember that box we talked about earlier.  

It’s 2008.  You are super critical of some of your former teachers coming across as robotic.  Don’t be.  Also, Animatrix and iRobot have given you crazy views on whether robots are able to experience human emotions.  They are.  In fact, they were once humans — like us.  But to protect themselves from the trauma around them, they began to surround their hearts with armor.  As they grew, they began to notice that their superiors wanted efficiency.  Efficiency was to be measured by lots of paperwork and would be labeled as “needs improvement”, “proficient”, or “distinguished”.  In order to be distinguished, robots knew they had to show emotion but they were only evaluated on things that could be quantified — test scores, lesson plans, I CAN statements — under the facade of visits that seemed qualitative.  They were faced with a decision, be terminated or chose efficiency.   Sometimes it’s easier to choose efficiency.  However, whats under your armor is really what matters…not meaningless labels.  You tend to forget this.

It’s 2008.  You were right about Beyonce’s engagement and you ARE right about Jay-Z. 

Forget time travel rules.  You HAVE to change her future. 

But don’t worry about ours.  We’re going to be okay.  We just get in our feelings sometimes — coincidentally near every break. 

Because remember that box?  Sometimes it gets full. 

So you write. 

Keep writing.  Keep feeling.  Keep teaching.  

That’s how you share your box. 

An Open Letter to the School Shooter’s Teachers (For When You’re Ready)

This isn’t a letter mocking the “thoughts and prayers” response to a school shooting.  This isn’t a letter demanding immediate gun control…and this isn’t a letter sympathizing with any school shooter.

It’s just a chance for us to talk, as teachers.  Because, truthfully, none of those types of letters will lift the grief you’re feeling right now. And, truthfully, when you entered this profession, you probably had very few opinions on guns — or politics in general (happier days).  All you knew back then was that you were meant to teach and nothing would deter that.

The shooting at Columbine (3rd grade for me), was an anomaly.  Maybe you vowed to never let something like this happen in your classroom.  I didn’t make that vow until my senior year of high-school when news of the Virginia Tech shooting broke.  I made it again my freshmen year of college when news of the NIU shooting broke…and again my second year of teaching on the morning of December 14, 2012.  Those wouldn’t be the only mass shootings growing up, but those would be the ones that hit home.

And today, another one happened.  But today feels scarier…and I think you feel the same.  You’ve come to the same realization that school shootings have become a part of the school culture.  There’s no running from that fact now.  In fact, you probably have a lock-down drill scheduled sometime in the spring.

What’s worse…is that you’ve likely poured through statuses and tweets looking for answers and trends.  Instead, you found something worse.

We’re all debating (and dismissing) what to debate, when to debate and who to debate.

To me, and maybe you, the only question you have isn’t “what now” but instead, what went wrong?

I never asked that question in 3rd grade.  Back then, I was told that guns are for bad people and bad people seek out guns.  I accepted this.  Society painted these shooters out to be the rejects, the bullied, or the loners.  So, I adjusted.  I started hanging out with people who didn’t look like “the school shooters” rather than open my heart and mind to those around me.  Nearly a decade later, I know better.  Now I teach the rejects, the bullied, or the loners.  And guess what?  They don’t look like the people I tried to avoid.  In fact, those are some of the happiest students in my classes.

Instead, I have had to come to terms with another truth. At some point, all of my students have fallen into one of those categories.  They just dress better than kids did in the 90s.

Contrary to what many believe, in some ways, it IS harder to be a kid nowadays.  I had the same exposure to drugs and alcohol.  To be honest, it was the social thing to do after Prom, or on the weekend at someone’s house who was trying to climb the social ladder.  It was a group activity.  But what I’m noticing now — and what I keep trying to ignore — is that many students today are using these drugs in solitude.  You won’t have to search too hard to find a high school teacher that can attest to this.  Many students are using these drugs to mask their trauma, grief, anxiety, and depression.  They’re leaving school high.  They’re exploring drugs beyond marijuana on a Tuesday morning.  They’re hungover on a Thursday morning.  And maybe they’re even on the honor roll.  So, what are they trying to escape from?

What went wrong?

Maybe you want to talk about that.

But, truthfully, you know you don’t even have time.  Because in 12 hours you’ll be in front of your students again.  And right now, you’re probably putting your own children to bed.  You don’t have the luxury of being angry, confused, sad, or even numb.  Instead, you will need to model compassion, understanding, love, and most importantly, peace…

while everyone around you fights.


I’ve been told that I’m bright as a button…

but when it comes to these types of dishes, I always struggle to find the directions.

The box said to cook for 4 years but that can’t be right. I can smell the disaster.

It should be done by now.

And if not, what do we do in those 4 years?

All I can do to button down is cook up some stanzas.

I can see the smoke and the crumbs of our society but I can’t find the panic button.

What really happens when we push someone’s buttons?

Where are those directions?

I tried to read the comments to understand. Maybe I could understand the chef. Maybe they left out some ingredients or maybe they shared the wrong recipe.

But all I came up with was more heat. More tweets. More years.

Tell me is it practical to let something go til it’s expiration date?

I mean depending who you ask, if you place an egg in water and it sinks, it’s still good. And right now, we’re sinking. But are we good?

Humpty, are you good?

Is rotten the new good now?

Sports CULTure

I read a condemnation of the marches and protests our country has seen since 2014.

The article points out the damage – fiscal and societal – these marches leave behind.

And I think back to the 2014 World Series riot.

I think back to the Laker’s riots in 2000, ’09, and ’10.

I think back to all of the other “protests” centered around sports that were headlined as fans being fans…

And I wonder how we can possibly ignore those damages.

Because now we have teenagers tailgating and colleges budgeting to repair their campuses.

Our kids are taught that aggression is warranted when losing, that Sunday belongs to only one god– football.

And our kids accept the fallacy that the most powerful people in their schools…are the MALE athletes.

We ignore these damages because sports are the heartbeat of America.

But what if something happens during a game?

That’s a disturbance.

That’s ungrateful.

That’s un-American.

But I think it’s also un-American to not cheer on my country.

And what little I’ve learned from sports, is that sometimes you have to yell when you think your team can do better.

And we can do better.

All of us.

Because all of the important games going on right now are at city hall, in Springfield, and in D.C.

And we’re still hung up on the commercials.

So, I ask again: What if we filled out ballots instead of brackets?

Curiously Strong

I cup my hands around my mouth as I try to stay warm.

In just a few short moments I’ll have to brave the cold

again to scrape the ice from my shield.

They haven’t made tools like that for hearts yet but

a scraper will do the job for my car.


I reach for the glove compartment and freeze.

It’s been exactly one year.


I still remember the 1 hr. drive to meet you in person.

I still remember buying Altoids on the way.

And I still remember our curiously strong connection.

In case of a kiss, I’d always have my case of fresh peppermint

encased in my glove compartment.


We’d see each other three more times and each time I would have a mint.

Honestly, it only took me one date to fall in love.

And since we’re being honest, it took you less than that to be disinterested.


And now I have these curiously strong interests.

I’m curious with how the heart reacts to

inanimate objects while trying to find a new host.


I don’t sit on my $1200 couch because that belongs to our 2nd date.

I don’t go to campus because that belongs to our 3rd date.

My stomach is stronger than my heart so Chipotle is safe for now.


But my mouth?  Not so much.

You see I can’t rid the taste of you.

The sweet taste of being desired.

And then the bitter taste of being undesired.


The taste of peppermint – which is meant to remind us of a winter wonderland –

makes me wonder if I’m meant to wander this land – untouched, like my mints.

Alone, a ghost…like you, searching for the reasons you stopped responding.


Who ya gonna call?

Not me.

Look Ma, No Hands!

“Hey bro, is that an IPA?”

I chuckled at the question

as I clutched my Bud Light with both hands.

You see the last bar had beer for $12 a can

and the math teacher in me said,

I think I can, I think I can not

wait until the next bar.

We went from a dimly lit rooftop bar

to a college lit basement bar.

And I’m not talking Shakespeare

Although it was poetic when he finished his question:

“We don’t sip our beer with two hands, brother.”


The smile faded.

Just when I thought I was home,

here I was a Montague at a bar full of Capulets.

Suddenly the music felt less lit and more dodgeball.

There I stood.

Awkwardly waiting to get picked last to get hit on and outed first.

I grabbed my phone and quickly swiped up to close Grindr,

which also feels a lot like dodgeball sometimes.

Tonight was no exception.

Although I had hoped that my new friend would make an exception.

Maybe this one time he would see black and queer as coexisting.

And maybe this one time he could see the label on my beer as unrelated

to the labels I wore when I entered this bar.

The same labels that now how had scratch marks

at the corner where I tried to peel them.

Luckily, the bell rang to “Like a Virgin”.

You would think that the music would give me enough

strength to wave bye as I swallowed the lyrics.  It didn’t.

Instead, I traded in my rainbow flag for a white one and nodded

in the most black, masculine way I could think — a nod to conformity.

Hey look, no hands! 


Some of the happiest mornings are rolling over to you still asleep beside me.

You’re actually asleep now — all you do is sleep.

But when I come home, you are always at the door. Ready.

We’ve been together for 10 years now
so I know our time together is short.
I’d hoped you’d be around to see me
fall in love with an actual human being but…we both aren’t getting any younger.

At this point in my life I should have a toddler or at least a divorce.

But I spent so much time chasing degrees and straight men that now I’m out of breath. My chest aches at the idea of opening up again.

So instead I close it off like the doors of my 5 bedroom home. And I swipe my ID to get into work with hopes that one day someone will swipe right.

Ope. You’re having nightmares now.

It must be nice to have them with your eyes closed.

It must be nice to have meals waiting for you too.

And it must be nice to see the best in people –Even when they hurt you.

Perhaps we could all learn a thing or three from you.


I am so sorry about all of the times I neglected you growing up.

You used to endure so much.
Wet dreams.
Hot Cheetos.
And tears.

And now you’re the one thing I can rely on.

You’re the one thing that will cure any affliction.

And you’re the one thing that has my back.

As kids, we saw you as punishment.
But now I feel punished when I’m asked to get out of you.

Now you may call this crippling depression,

And I want you to know that you are probably onto something.

But I’m onto something too.
I’m onto bed.

On This Day



I made it a point to not block my ex
because that much effort would show that I care. I don’t care…
that much.

But your flashbacks to how happy we were usually leads me down the path of how happy he currently is.

I don’t care…
that much.

But if you were able to manipulate fake news then surely you’re able to sense the

dread in my search history,
the tone in my statuses,
and the lack of a new profile pic after 2012.

Why not send me videos of my ALS challenge?

Those were happier days.

But hey.

Thanks for reminding me that Vegas was a good time.

At that time, we were falling apart.
And we’d break up less than a month later. So yeah, those photos are nice.

I mean I don’t care…that much.

I just thought I had the strength to finally hit the “block” button.

But then I noticed that you added a new option. Above “unfollow” it now says “take a break”.

It’s funny. Because that was once an option for us.

And now I’m just looking to break back into the dating scene.

Except I’m not.

Because broken pieces don’t always get put back together.

They just get swept aside, waiting to cut the next person who reaches out.

It’s Funny

And then he said, “I almost turned off my body cam.”

I did an inaudible gasp at the lack of gasps from those around us.

I did a double take at the empty plates and full faces of glee.

I did some reflection on how I found myself here — the token black guy. Again.

It’s funny because that wasn’t a joke. It was a story.

It’s funny because I laughed to hide my discomfort.

It’s funny because if it were in an iMessage I’d respond with “lol” and get on with my life.

It’s funny because an unarmed black boy had been shot that weekend.

It’s funny because this bbq was to commemorate our independence…yet I still wear chains.

Naw…the joke is on them.

Because massa taught me how to write.

And all. my. life. I’s. had. to. fight.

Isn’t that funny?

An Ode to My Hair…Kind Of.

You’ve been so kind to me. Even after all of the things I put you through. I mean, momma used to take her hot comb and pull you from the depths of my skull. We would both scream.

But back then pain equaled beauty and now it’s just painfully hard to be beautiful.

When I wanted a rat tail — you and I — we made it work. When I wanted an Afro, you rose to the occasion. And when I wanted a mohawk, you sacrificed yourself.

And here we are today…me being a pain. See, I’m asking you to make another sacrifice. I’m asking you to stay with me a little longer. I know it’s perfectly normal for you to pull back, drop out and fade. But…

I beg of thee. Please let me find a man first before you recede. Because I just spoke with my metabolism and it didn’t go well.

Hello? Are you listening?

Et tu, hair? Et tu?

It hurts.

Please. You’ve always been so kind to me. Don’t forsake me now.

I can make you beautiful.
I can make US beautiful.

And this time it won’t hurt.

Let me be beautiful.

Are You Still Watching?

Netflix does this thing where they change the artwork for their titles.

They catch my eye every time.

My heart skips a beat at the idea of a new obsession — and then it slows at the realization that … I’ve been here before.

So I keep scrolling, looking for the next disappointment.

The screen fades to black momentarily and I catch my reflection.

Whoop there it is.

200.4 lbs.

Fellas what happened?

We used to rock the 28 waist

and now at 28 we rockin’ 28 reasons why our clothes don’t fit.


I don’t know about you.

But I’m feelin’ 22

was the last time me and my metabolism spoke.

So now I speak to the mirror on the wall.

He told me I can’t embrace the “dad bod” if I don’t have kids.

He told me the scale was just in a bad part of the floor.

But then he told me to not come back until I looked like the body I was taught to idolize.

So, yeah.

Raise your hand if you’ve met my mirror.

Now pull it back….

And SLAP the next person who congratulates you on finally

“gettin’ a little meat on them bones”.

Because you’re not going back to 8th grade and this will not be your new normal.

And SLAP the next person who says you “ought to be grateful” you aren’t as big as them.

Because what they need to realize is…

that body image is subjective —

But insecurity is universal.

Society, you made this.

Society, you made me.

You can copy, save, and open me up —

But DON’T ever try to CTRL-ALT-DEL my mindset.

You’re 28 years too late.


In the end, he did it for the likes.

He craned his neck, stretched his arm

until he heard the snap, crackle, pop of the filter —

Cheese Louise.

Instead of saying what he meant to say

he stretched his 150 characters into word play.

You’d think with his education he’d be able to stretch his mind.

But no, he did it for the likes.

And still…people flocked to his pages.

Perhaps to watch the rise of an icon

or perhaps to watch his display of vanity.

I guess they needed company.


Like me.

Because I wrote this for you.

And in the end, I did it for the likes.


The Quiet

He pulls the body of his friend out from beneath the depths of his bathroom sink.


He steps onto his face and his friend screams.

His friend screams two-hundred and four reasons to get off.

He does.


He then pulls into Gold’s Gym and finds the quietest corner

to match the quietest aisle he just visited at Wal-Mart.

But, these people are practically perfect.   These people aren’t like him.

So, he hits the road at the quietest times and runs along the quietest parts of the trail.

People pass him and some even wave.


After a week, he pays his friend a visit once more.

But this time, his friend only offers two-hundred reasons to leave him alone.

And he does.


He pushes and pushes and, quietly, pulls his hamstring.

And now he sits in his room, quietly,

eating the super-size portion of food to match

the super-size portion of disappointment.

And he wonders….

if obesity is such a loud problem in America,

then why is everything around him so…




Hey fuckboy.

I saw you AGAIN today.

You had on a polka dot button up and (surprise), overalls.

And overall, I was pretty damn pissed.

Pissed that, overall, you still seemed pretty damn happy.

Overall, I’d say that this makes me pretty damn petty —

But, to me, petty is wearing overalls with a smile that says,


you’re doing just fine without me.

Over ALL the things I can’t un-see today,

you and your hipster overalls top the list.



As you play on your phone, I encourage you to consider the problems.

No, I don’t mean the untouched problems on this in-class activity.

I mean the real problems.

Because when you go home,

your parents are going to ask

about those problems.

You’re going to tell them that you’re having problems focusing in class.

Your parents are going to reach out to me

around bedtime — disregarding my problems.

Now, we’ve all got problems.

And you?

You’ve got Snapchat.

While everyone around you problem-solves

on what THEY can be doing better to

help you through these problems.

Rinse, repeat, resign or retire.

Do you see the problems here?


Hunger Games

Dating is a three-course meal…with no dessert.

Dating is a three-course meal that, somehow, still leaves me hungry.

Dating is a three-course meal that comes with

NO refund,

NO menu,

and NO mints to wash the bullshit I swallowed while I pretended that THIS…

was anything more than just

a meal for you.


Dating is resetting my wireless router

Because maybe THAT’S why your iMessages aren’t coming through.

Maybe THAT’S why my Snapchats aren’t being opened.

And maybe THAT’S why the signals I sent weren’t accessed while my heart lied open,

password protected by one simple phrase: sup.


Dating is mentally preparing to choose YOU over




That brought me comfort before you were even a DM in my phone.


And dating is waking up early to pick out

which shirt of insecurity I can wear today…

to match the pants that don’t fit anymore.


Dating is waking up early to search the vanity for the

contacts I can wear today…

to blind me from

the vanity YOU clearly haven’t bothered to hide.


And dating is waking up early to pick out

which tie can match the words that get

twisted in my tongue as I try to hide that I know.


I’ve known…


that I like you more than you like me.


that you don’t like me at all.


Dating is the last mistake I will make with you.



Lemme Get this Straight 

Lemme get this straight. 

That because I get my hair cut at Great Clips…I’m WHITE?

Even though we all came here on great ships

Spent months inside moms, stretched out their hips

But shhh…I should watch these big lips.


Because big lips have big words…

and behind these big words are big hands

and behind these hands are NOT “deez nuts” but 140 characters waiting to be used…


To hurt.

To judge.

To make you feel every ounce of uncertainty I feel when YOU say,


“You’re not really black.”



An Open Letter to the Kids I’d Miss if I Resigned

Ironically, I write this a week after telling you not to walk out on your education.  Today, I walked out on yours.  I left.  I got in my car, drove to Long John Silver’s, and devoured a super sampler.  By this time, my lunch break had ended.  Technically, I should’ve been back at school for my “free” hour.  But…I just couldn’t.  So I drove around.

Eventually, I came back.  I parked my car and turned on Piano Concerto in A Minor Op. 16: II. Adagio and Piano Sonata in A Major K.331: I. Andante Grazioso. That gave me about twenty minutes to reflect on how I got here.  I mean, I was accepting an award for my dedication to teaching less than a week ago and now I was literally hiding in my car.  

Let me break it down for you, because you’ll listen.  You’ve always listened.   That’s why I’m coming back tomorrow.

It started with a band-aid.  It wasn’t just the band-aid.  It was the way she asked.  It was when she asked.  It was her annoyance in her voice that suggested I stop what I was doing immediately and go get her a band-aid…the same band-aids that are easily accessible for all students.  It was her disregard to the defeat I carried on my shoulders as her classmate still stood in the back after I had asked him to sit down ten minutes ago.  It was her disregard to the embarrassment that dripped down my face as a student with multiple Fs came in to skip his class to “hang out”…and kindly responded with “nah”before I could send him away.   It was the lack of eye contact she made because she was too busy snapchatting the phone I had confiscated moments ago.  It was the exhaustion in my voice that she should’ve read as I helped a student on missing assignments from January.   But she didn’t.  She just had to have that band-aid.  To add more insult to injury, each of the aforementioned students smiled and said bye at the end of the hour.  It was in that moment that I decided I was going to go out for lunch.  

But this letter isn’t for them.   This letter isn’t about how a distinguished teacher on his 6th year of teaching was treated like a clinical teacher.

This letter is for you — who recognized that I was upset so continued to work even though you didn’t really want to, who waited for all the fires to go out before asking to go to the bathroom, who somehow heard I was upset and came to visit, and you, who has never been the topic of an open letter because teachers tend to focus on the things that ruined our day as opposed to the things that keep us coming back every year.

You know me.

You see me.

You see us.

And now, I see you.

You are my band-aid.

Thank you.

bgthorn (Mr. T)

Teaching in May: The Survival Kit

Entry 1 on Phones

Entry 2 on Skipping

Entry 3 on Passing

“D” is for Didn’t

An Open Letter to the “But at Least I’m Passing” Students

I just….okay. In your defense, I used to toss out the same line.  But to me, “passing” was evident given the following:

(1)  I had a perceived firm grasp on the content.

(2) I had a B or C.

Yes. In my mind, passing was a C. Because that meant I generally understood what was going on but mistakes happen.

So, yes, I DO have a problem with that statement. Because often times it’s followed with blatant prideful comments that suggest you did not prepare, or worse, you just didn’t care.

Please hear me out.

We have built in SO many supports (retakes, study guides, practice tests, low stakes homework).  So if you’ve taken full advantage of any of those, you really shouldn’t be sitting that low.  

I understand that you may feel that a D is the best you can do…and if you truly believe that, then this letter isn’t for you.  Because trust me, there are kids with higher grades who need to read this too.

This letter is for those who graduate and say “I didn’t learn anything in high school” but have FULL Snapchat stories from 7:30 AM – 2:15 PM.

Ask yourself, would you know what was going on if you only watched 60% of “13 Reasons Why”?

~ bgthorn (Mr. T)

Teaching in May: The Survival Kit

Entry 1 on Phones

Entry 2 on Skipping

Entry 4 on Not Resigning

We Were Rooting For You…

An Open Letter to the Kids on their Phones

(If you don’t want to read, here is a summary in the wise words of Tyra Banks.

Yes.  I see you on SnapChat and watching Netflix.  You’re probably thinking I’m cool for letting you “get away” with it.  Don’t.  I’m not cool.  You should hate me because I’m letting you disengage in your education.  The world isn’t getting any dumber…but the workforce and graduation rates are most certainly getting smaller.  The only safeguard you have right now IS your education NOT your instagram.

You should hate me because in that moment when I’m deciding how best to intervene without sacrificing the learning of others, I most likely hate you too.  Yup, teachers have emotions too and they are stronger than you can ever imagine.  Because we are invested in your success, your future, your choices, and your mistakes.  And when you continually work against the supports we have set up for your success, it makes us doubt everything.  That doubt turns into fear which either turns into wine, anger, or avoidance.

This is not a job to me.  This is my calling.  And to feel powerless in your calling is mind-numbingly frustrating.  And you know what?  I feel powerless every time I kindly ask you to get off your phone.  Because this leads to a “but I’m listening” back and forth which then leads to you going out of your way to sneak back onto your phone.


You’re missing the main event: your education.  If anything, you should be going out of your way to consume as much knowledge as you can from the adults in your life.  Because one day, you will rely on us once again…and bridges aren’t exactly fireproof.

Look around.  Your classmates are going out of their way to tune YOU out.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  I don’t want your classmates to feel relief when they see you are absent.  I don’t want your classmates to secretly comfort me because they can see the tension and stress in my posture and voice.  I don’t want your classmates to label you as the “kids who don’t care” and constantly mock you for being off task.  Obviously you care because you showed up.  You just need to refocus…but you’re running out of time.

I’m not saying you have to learn the quadratic formula through and through.  But you do have to train your brain to access and acquire new information and persevere in any task before you.  That’s really what I’m doing here.  Because…I want you to someday be able to comfortably provide for yourself and your family.  Because…I want you to look back at high-school and say it prepared you for life.  Because…I want you come back to your 5 year reunion shining with pride because of your accomplishments.

I get it.  Life is hard sometimes.  And sometimes your phone is an appropriate escape.  But I can promise you that life won’t be any easier without an education.

I’m rooting for you.  We all are.

Tomorrow is a new day.  By then I will have already forgiven you.  Because although I hate the decisions you make, I still love you enough to write this tough letter.  But…keep in mind that forgiven and forgotten are two different things.  So, for lack of better words, change.  But don’t do it for me, or your parents, or your classmates.  Do it for you.  You’re the future.  You’re important.  Act like it.

~bgthorn (Mr. T)

Teaching in May: The Survival Kit

Entry 2 on Skipping

Entry 3 on Passing

Entry 4 on Not Resigning

Oh No Baby, What is You Doing?

An Open Letter to the Kids Who Skip Class

First, the worst things you can do upon your return is give me the silent treatment, hide in your phone, or call me “the Feds”.  I am not your parent.  I don’t have to love you.  But I choose to.  That is why I followed through with the discipline policy.  If I didn’t at least somewhat like your presence, I would welcome your absence.

Second, I promise you that your pettiness pales in comparison to the level of petty I COULD be. But I choose to start over everyday. You should too. That is yet another survival tool you need to have in order to make it in this world.  Without it, you’ll be single, unemployed, and stuck.

Third, please do not waltz into my room under the assumption that I’m okay with you skipping other classes to “hang” with me.  At the end of the day, I will always choose your education over our relationship.  Our relationship can be repaired…but your education doesn’t come with a warranty.  And at this time, my colleagues are the ones providing it. So, yes, you too will be disciplined accordingly…but worse. Because now you’ve left an impression that you don’t value your education. You’ve also put me in a difficult position professionally.  I don’t keep those types of people in my circle.  Would you?

I get it.  I really do.  Being a teenager is much harder than it used to be.   The world has changed.  Drugs are just as normalized as alcohol was when I was your age.  And we now wear anxiety on our sleeves, socks of insecurity, and a belt of depression to match.  The reason is in my previous open letter.  

But…you have to find better ways to cope.

Your teachers — and I promise you this — are struggling too.

You have to follow our lead.

We have less than 3 weeks left.  Now is not the time to let life win. If you do, it always will.

~bgthorn (Mr. T)

Teaching in May: The Survival Kit

Entry 1 on Phones

Entry 3 on Passing

Entry 4 on Not Resigning