Every Sunday, I teach a class of 14 to 17 year-old West Indian students in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Not surprising, they aren’t particularly the most attentive bunch and so I am always brainstorming ideas to help keep their eyes and ears focused on me. This Sunday, before I could implement any of my ideas, one girl volunteered, “Laura, would you turn on your southern accent in class today?”


“Well … if I speak to you in my home accent, would you listen to me during the entire class?”

My answer was chorus of yeahs and simultaneous head nods.

“OK … raise your right hand and repeat after me. I promise to listen the entire class if Laura speaks in her southern accent during the entire class.”

All 10 hands were raised and voice repeated my statement.

“Alriiiight ya’ll, let’s get staaaaarted.”

After a few shocked giggles (and my answer to why the accent is turned off most of the time) we started the class and the group sure ‘nuf remained true to its commitment.

I walked away from class with a few giggles of my own. Something as simple as showing them a little bit of “me” – something unique – was all it took to win over the tough crowd. It’s amazing what a dose of genuine self will do.