From Black Skin to "Sir"
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From Black Skin to "Sir"
This project involves the journey to E. R. Braithwaite to find gainful employment in Britian as a young educated black man. What ensues is a journey no one could anticipate, as he finds himself in a classroom teaching students who no one previously wanted to. Watch how this magnificent story unfold and tell of the triumpant accomplishments of a man who went from simply recognizing rejection due to his black skin to being called "Sir" by all those around him.
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E.R. Braithwaite's Bio (I)

E.R. Braithwaite's Bio (I) | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

Guyanese autobiographical writer, diplomat, and teacher, born in Georgetown, British Guiana, educated at City College, New York and the Universities of Cambridge and London. His varied career included service with the RAF in the Second World War, and as Permanent Representative of Guyana at the United Nations. To Sir, With Love (1959), about his experiences as a teacher in London, was an international bestseller. Other novels include Paid Servant (1962), about his experiences as a social worker; Choice of Straws (1965), which tackles racism among the white working class; and Reluctant Neighbours (1972). His visit to Africa is recorded in the trenchant A Kind of Homecoming (1962), and to South Africa in Honorary White (1975), perhaps his best book. It chronicles his almost farcical encounters with the white authorities, who suspended the rigours of apartheid in recognition of his ‘celebrity’ status.
Read more: E. R. Braithwaite (Edward Ricardo Braithwaite) Biography - (1912– ), (Edward Ricardo Braithwaite), To Sir, With Love, Paid Servant, Choice of Straws, Reluctant Neighbours - JRank Articles http://www.jrank.org/literature/pages/3429/E-R-Braithwaite-(Edward-Ricardo-Braithwaite).html#ixzz1pxkAcIO2

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I tried everything to get work, but the reason given for turning me down: too black. (II)

I tried everything to get work, but the reason given for turning me down:  too black. (II) | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

After searching for sometime E.R. Braithwaite,  would find himself sitting beside the lake in St. James Park.  There he would contemplate his demise and the profound racial injustice he had encountered.   He was a developed, well-mannered, college graduate, who had successfully completed some time in the military and was searching high and low for gainful employment.   He tried everything to get work.  He would mention his qualifications and tell employers he was black,  or he would tell them his qualifications and not tell them.  They all ended with the same results though, that is he was too black (p.43).    

 

One day while sitting at  St. James Park,  he encounters a thin, knowledgeable old gentlemen who tells him to try applying for work at the local school district.  "Teaching", he said that's the thing, why not get a job as a teacher?"(p.46).  

Braithwaite, finds the man's suggestion odd,  and unlikely and proclaims, "I have had no training as a teacher." (p.46)  Having listened to the old man for some time he decided to take the man's suggestion and apply.    What did he have to lose? Nothing.  Up until then,  he had been greeted bynothing more than one door after another slammed in his face, because his face was black. What was it that had made it so difficult for him,  he questioned as he contemplated his situation,  why would no one hire him.    This sort of thing had never been a problem in the military, he thought to himself.    I mingled,  went to the pubs,  danced and socialized with everyone there.   What was the hinderance now?   As he began to reminence upon the realization of social injustice and prejudice around him, he speaks.  My skin, "I had forgotten about MY BLACK FACE during these years".(p.37).   He remembered seeing it (his face daily) but never remembered its color.   

 

It is not that he didn't recognize he was black,  it was that the color of his skin had faded to the background of his existence.   E. R. Braithwaite was a person,  a genuinely good person, who simply wanted to provide for himself through honest and meaningful work by using his skills.   He had learned to treat people as people, only to receive a closed door.      Therefore on this day at  St. James Park, when the thin, old gentleman spoke,  his words became a means to an end that would change Braithwaites life forever.

 

 

  

 

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The Boys

The Boys | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

Mr. Braithwaite enters Greenslade school with little excitment for his new job. He is not moved by the idea of shaping the world's future or educating our youth- at first. He is particularly hard on the boys in his class. He wants all of the children to be respectable members of society and often contributes to life lessons on inclusion and understanding of others. Above all else, it seems, he is interested in manners. This may be another reason why he pushes the boys so much. He wants them to be gentleman, particularly to the girls. Asking his students to act this way is important in helping them grow up. 

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Sir, We will listen and learn (V)

Sir,  We will listen and learn (V) | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

Throughout the book, a number of challenges erupt which foster a closer relationship between Sir and his students. These situations are ‘eye-openers’ for Braithwaite, thus, through the experiences he realizes that the students are more mature than other children their age because of their home lives and surroundings. For example, Braithwaite goes to one of his student’s, Pamela’s home to help solve a dispute between her and her mother. Upon his arrival at this student’s home, he understands that he has crossed the line of the role he serves as a teacher. Braithwaite treats his students like adults and this develops into a mutual respect between himself and his students. This is evident when the class attends a class trip to the museum. The students present themselves appropriately and all dressed nicely for the trip, which was very surprising to Braithwaite and shows how the students respect him and how that respect has fostered change in the normal behavior of the students. On the way to the museum, there was a woman on the train who comments on the fact that an adult, black man was accompanying and responsible for young, white females. When overhearing these women comment on her teacher, Pamela bravely turned to them and stated, “He is our teacher, do you mind?” Addressing this situation proves the maturity level of his students, in addition to their admiration and respect for him.

 

Another example of a student who proved to overcome the accepted prejudice and defend her teacher was Barbara, who begged her own mother to apologize to Braithwaite when she judged him based strictly on his looks. He uses certain tactics in the classroom to ensure that his students are respectful of himself and one another, such as having the boys call the girls ‘miss.’ Braitwaite has built an extremely strong rapport with his students and has affected them both inside and outside of the classroom and how his students defend and respect him is evidence to his success in connecting with the students and developing emotional bonds.

 

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Mr. Braithewaite with Miss Blanchard

Mr. Braithewaite with Miss Blanchard | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

Mr. Braithewaite and Miss Blanchard have a relationship that is central to the plot of the book. They are both new teachers and are navigating the world of teaching together. Their interactions are heart warming and begin to take on a new shape. As romance begins to blossom it becomes clear that the world is not ready to accept them as a couple. The book tackles racism in many ways, but this may be the most closely linked to Mr. Braithwaite's vision of himself. He is prepared to give himself to someone, but the color of his skin stands in his way. It is, again, an obstacle to his happiness and success. Many people disapprove of their relationship, but the most vocal are possibly Miss Blanchard's parents. They are straightforward with their distain for Mr. Braithewaite and their opinion on interracial couples in general. At moments it becomes unclear if Miss Blanchard can overcome her upbringing and the society she is so closely a part of. We read as she works this out in her own way. The plot allows the reader to question Mr. Braithewaite's true intentions as well. He seems enamored with women's bodies. He is also open about the way he sees Miss Blanchard and the fact that race is still a divide in many ways despite how hard they try for it not to be. The reader may question the relationship because Mr. Braithwaite is so open with his thoughts. He shares exactly how he feels about these women, even when he is uncomfortable with his own thoughts. This self-disclosure also allows the reader to see his growth and developing understanding of who he is. He confronts Miss Blanchard's parents and this seems to finalize their relationship. They are in love against all other opinions, even her parents. Miss Blanchard becomes a constant in his life and helps him to see who he is as a man. 

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The Days Dwindling Away

The Days Dwindling Away | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

During the last days of classes not a single students was absent. This showed how much of an impact Mr.Braithwaite had made in their lives. They held discussions instead of lessons. One day they wanted to know, how “to help in the achievement of better inter-racial unity in their own neighborhood.” Mr.Braithwaite incorporated what he had taught them in history and geography. He did this by stating that there are people of every race located in every part of the world and they are not confined to one specific place. If the children wanted to achieve better inter-racial unity, all they would have to do is treat people of different races the way they would treat any stranger, with gentleness and courtesy.

 

This shows a big turning point in the book that has been foreshadowed the entire time. The students were always curious about Mr.Braithwaite’s skin color, and you see this when one of the boys sees that Mr.Braithwaite’s blood is red just like his. When this happens he sees that skin color is only skin deep. Now by wanting to help the inter-racial unity in their neighborhood you see that they all believe that skin color is only skin deep and that Mr.Braithwaite is just like them. This is a big turning point because they are growing up in an era of racism.

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What? Me, A teacher. (III)

What? Me, A teacher. (III) | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

 

Soon thereafter E. R. was hired at  Greenslade School.   When he first arrived he was invited to look around.   What he witnessed there was anything but what he expected.   Students participated in open displays of affection.  They were disrespectful toward authority.  Why,  his first day of looking around, as he entered his first classroom, he was met by a Mr. Hackman running passed him to leave for good.  

 

Throughout the story Braithwaite remains composed in a gentle and awestruck kind of way.   As he walks through the school he simply observes the students and other faculty members who greet him in the spirit of apprehension, which causes Mr. Braithwaite to wonder about the school.  However, he is so happy to have a job,  I think he simply followed along, although abhored at what he saw.   

 

It comes of no surprised to him on his first day to find that he has been assigned Mr. Hackman's former class of students, of whom he met on the first day of observance.  The students were disruptive, disrespectful and had no fear of authority over them, and Mr. Braithwaite had't a clue what to do with them.  The turning point in the story comes one day after several attempts to gain control over his class, he enters his classroom and finds a girls soiled sanitary napkin on fire, smoldering in the fireplace in the classroom.   

 

Braithwaite loses it with his class and calls them in and tells them "I am your teacher, and I think it right and proper that I should let you know something of my plans for this class"(p. 72).  "We're going to talk, you and I, but we will be reasonable with each other" (P. 72).   Being the civil human being that he was, obviously trained to be respectable,  he sets out to demand the same of his class.   He goes on to tell them that they will observe certain courtesies in his class room from that day forward.   He says,  "Myself you will address as Mr. Braithwaite or "SIR"-the choice is yours", and the young ladies you will address as  "Miss".   It becomes apparent here that Mr. Braithwaite is starting to embrace this new found role as teacher when this happens.   Clearly his interaction up until this point had been unpleasant for him.   But, what is remarkable about his story is that he speaks with such love and respect for those students that from that day on he becomes "SIR".  And, while he encounters a few oppositions from a couple of students, most all of his students take his chastisement and learn to demonstrate respectful behaviors in his class.   

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Our "Sir" is nothing like this "Sir"- Our Sir was the perfect gentleman -WATCH THE CLIP

E.R. Braithwaite (Sir) character was in binary opposition with this guy.  To see what I mean watch the clip.   

 

 As the story comes to a close,  A subsititute teacher named Mr. Bell is brought in to help out.  His character and personality is set up as a binary to that of Braithwaite.    He proves to be the complete opposite of of Mr. Braithwaite, and perhaps is put into the story to show what happens when a teacher lacks the appropriate judgment when dealing with students.  

 

Mr. Bell's job was to run PT with the students several days a week.  Often he would challenge these students beyond measure, to push his weight around.   One day he forced a student named "Buckley" who wasn't feeling well to run pace through the "Asride Vault" with the other students.  Underweather as he was the activity was  obviously too hard, and the "Buckley" fell and hurt himself.    The student's immedicately ran and told "Sir".   

 

The students was extremely angry at Mr. Bell for the way he had taken advantage of them and wanted to retaliate, Sir stepped in and talked them out of it, and told them sometimes you just have to be the bigger person when others act up,  as retaliting doesn't accomplish anything and can cause you to lose out in life.  Having this talk with those young men was paramount in the story and demostrated that Mr. Braithwaite was more than just a teacher in their lives, he was a like parent and they were his children.

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Did you hear the "Bleedin", "Bloody" teacher, pay attention. (IV)

Did you hear the "Bleedin", "Bloody" teacher, pay attention. (IV) | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

At first Mr. Braithwaite had a hard time getting his students to listen and be respectful.  A student name Denham in particular was always trying Braithwaites patience, and others would follow in the pursuit.   Almost anytime you would hear him or another student use the would "Bleedin or Bloody" this or that, which was offensive language in that day.    It came a point when Mr. Braithwaite thought he had gained control of his class,  when a student  picked up the top of her desk and let it fall making a loud noise in the class, which caused an obvious distraction.   When addressed,  she said "The bleeding thing won't stay up".    From that point on, to annoy Mr. B,  students would yell out that bleedin thing or this bloody thing.   This was really annoying for Mr. Braithwaite, he simply couldn't understand what made those students act the way they did,  but he would soon find out.   Keep Reading

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"We liked best the way you always talked to us, you know, not like silly kids, but grown ups and that(pg188)."

"We liked best the way you always talked to us, you know, not like silly kids, but grown ups and that(pg188)." | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

At first, walking into a classroom must have seemed to be somewhat of an out of body experience to Mr. Braithwaite. To be in a career you never thought you could imagine yourself doing, had to be strange. Mr. Braithwaite, had zero experience being a teacher let alone working with kids. So, to walk into a classroom full of these undeveloped minds and to have it be your job to “educate, teach, and mold” these kids into respectable, smart beings must have felt near impossible. Mr. Braithwaite, clearly had his ups and downs trying to accomplish such a task throughout the story.
    

The turning point for Mr Braithwaite is arguably when he is thinking to himself all the horrible thoughts about his students and about the Black race, and wishing that he has affected these kids more than he thinks. Mr. Braithwaite in this part of the story is so upset with his students because one of their peer's mother's had passed away. By this point, we are all aware how important respect and mannars are to Mr. Braitwaite, so the fact that his students make a big to do about going to the Seales house to help them mourn, is proposturous. He feels it is their duty to be there for their classmate and his family irregardless of his race. Just as he finishes his thoughts and turns onto the street of the Seales house, he sees his class, all his kids outside the front door with Miss Dare. This is where Mr. Braithwaite realizes that he isn’t just a teacher but that he has taught these kids something that even other teachers in the school didn’t think was possible. He has taught them a life long lesson, that he can only hope they stick with and pass their knowledge onto another family member or friend. He immediately forgets all the terrible racist cliches’ he had thought up on his way there, and with tears in his eyes, runs to be with his students, his children, his class.
    

In the last pages Mr. Braithwaite can really see how he has affected these once ruthless, rude, and innocent minds. He knows from the very beginning that he cannot treat his students as children because their maturity level is much older than they physically are. He sees this for one of the last times at their Senior Night dance. Pamela Dare, has asked Mr. Braithwaite to save her a dance, and he willingly promises for he knows how much it would mean to Miss Dare. The fact that she kindly asks him to call her Pamela for the evening shows the impact that Mr. Braithwaite has had on these children. They dance a foxtrot and Sir thanks her and she thanks him and they go their separate ways. Because they are seniors and all leaving the school Mr. Braithwaite can envision all of them, grown up, respectable men and women. Not the “delinquents” they were when he first walked through the doors at Greenslade School. The secret to transforming these children into respectable men and woman was as simple as treating them as exactly that, men and women. Once he treated them as a peer, and not as an uninformed child, the students did the same. They began treating each other with the same respect they wanted to be treated, and the way that Mr. Braithwaite, Sir, expected to be treated.

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The Children Will Succeed

The Children Will Succeed | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

Despite where they lived and their upbringing at home, the students had to do their share of work around the house for their parents including, taking care of siblings by picking them up from school. These children had proved that they were able to stay in school and graduate, to be able to work in the “real” world.

 

When the class had a visit from the district Youth Employment officer, they knew this was their time to move on into a world beyond school and their comfort zone. By the time of graduation some of the students received opportunities such as, apprenticeship training at a large electrical engineering firm, messenger for Cable and Wireless Lt., jobs as a page in a London hotel, and some girls received jobs as dressmakers.

 

All of the children were eager to leave school and begin making money to buy the things they have always wanted. However, with graduation approaching they became nervous with the responsibilities that working came with. Although, at the same time, they were not afraid of working and being responsible, as this was something they had learned to be their entire lives.

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How 'Sir' Changed Their Lives

How 'Sir' Changed Their Lives | From Black Skin to "Sir" | Scoop.it

When it was time for Mr.Braithwaite to say good-bye to the children he did not know how to begin. How should he have known that when he came to know these children that he would see them as adults?  When he learned what they went through in their lives on a daily basis he could no longer see them as children. They had responsibilities that most children did not. Needing to make money to help their family, picking up siblings from school while at the same time being in school. They changed his life immensely, as he changed theirs. He became very close to these children and was excited to see them succeed and go out into the world, but at the same time knew he would miss seeing them as much as he had.

 

On their last afternoon in Mr.Braithwaite’s class, Moira Joseph, stood up to speak on behalf of the class. She mentioned how grateful they were for him to have never gave up on them especially because sometimes the children were being difficult. Also, how they are better children because of him. She also mentioned, “We liked best the way you always talked to us, you know, not like silly kids, but like grown-ups and that”(p.188). This shows how much he has affected their lives and showed them that they are more than children. He encouraged them to do their best and to treat one another with respect. He showed them how to behave in an orderly manner, and that everyone is the same no matter what their race says about them. These children have been changed by Mr.Braithwaite the same as they have changed him. They showed him that children carry a lot of responsibilities and they were able to act like adults when needed too. They also showed him how much he could care for a group of children and love teaching.

 

On the last page the entire class gives Mr.Braithwaite a parcel that they purchased with their own money. The card on the parcel read, “To Sir, With Love,” and included all of their names written underneath that. The last sentence of the book shows the emotion and joy he felt teaching this class and how he now viewed teaching as a love for the children, it read, “And I looked over his shoulder at them-my children”(p.189).

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