His mother put him out of the house at age 12. He had a straight flush of grade level failures in middle school and his social studies teacher was sure he had a one-way ticket to the nearest prison.
This is the story of Rodney Jordan’s childhood years in Virginia.
Jordan, a boy who once seemed destined for a life of failure and broken dreams is now teaching at Mayfield Intermediate School in Manassas.
He recently authored and self published a book titled, “Tired of Being Black” in which he tells of his experiences as a black boy and man.
“I just wanted a title that would stick out,” Jordan said of his choice of title.
" I’ve had people who initially said, ‘You wanna be, white?' Or, ‘What’s wrong with being black?’ or ‘What do you mean you are tired of being black?’”
If you read the book, you’ll see where I'm coming from, Jordan says.
He loves being black and says he’s insanely proud of his roots, despite the early struggles he endured.
“I felt no one cared,” he said.
As a child, he lived in a two bedroom, one bathroom duplex with 12 to 16 other people.
The entire space was smaller than his current classroom at Mayfield, he said.
The water only stayed hot for 10 minutes, so he was forced to wash with cold water, Jordan said.
“It just seemed like I always got the worst of everything,” he said. “Every little thing I did, I caught the belt. (Me and my mother) always had a bitter relationship.”
He remembers trying to find spare space on the coffee table where he could kneel and do his homework, Jordan said.
He said he loved school up until the third grade, but then he stopped caring.
He eventually failed sixth, seventh and eighth grades and was only able to advance because his father paid for him to go to summer school three times, Jordan said.
Things started to change in 10th grade, the year he met a U.S. History teacher who took a personal interest in him, Jordan said.
“I feel like he was put there, just for me,” he said. “This man, he didn’t cut me any slack; no excuse was good enough for him. I was determined I was going to show him I really wasn’t dumb. I ended up finishing his class with an ‘A.’”
After that point he never got in trouble in school again. He later graduated from Norfolk State University and eventually made his way to Weems Elementary in Manassas where he won the Outstanding Teacher Award two years in a row, Jenkins said.
Recently his father and brother told him they ran into an old friend of his from school and an old social studies teacher, both of whom said they thought he was certainly imprisoned.
“He said he was looking for me when he went to jail because he thought for sure I would be there,” Jordan said of the old friend. “My brother said to him, ‘He’s a school teacher and he just wrote a book.’ And the guy looked at him and said, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure we are talking about the same Rodney Jordan? Because I thought for sure he was going to jail.'”
In his book, which was published in September,Jordan said he strives to tell young people of all races that living in a home with an absent fathe doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. At the same time, living in a half million dollar home doesn’t mean you will be successful, he added.
He wants to put an end to excuses made by young people of any race, he said.
As for blacks today, he feels that many people have gotten away from the things fought for during the civil rights movement, Jordan said.
“So many of our ancestors fought for us to have the right to go to school, now they have to fight to get us to go to school," he said.
In his book, he also discusses affirmative action, the use of the “N” word (the derogatory term for blacks) and other issues of importance in the world, Jordan said.
The book is published by Universe Inc. of Bloomington IN, but he’s hoping for publication by a traditional publisher one day.