Worthless? No, Priceless.

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Got to be honest, this once again made me think of teachers. I can’t help it, I am one! I have a story.

My first year teaching I met with ridiculous expectations from my students. In particular, my 7th grade music class was the worst. There was a girl, let’s call her Cindy (for that is not her name), who did not see the worth of my class much less the worth of me. Now it wasn’t completely Cindy’s fault the class was horrible, but she certainly did not help.

Everyday, she questioned my worth, every time I spoke she only raised her hand to devalue me. It was not because she was an expert in music, not because she hated me as a person (at least not anymore than any other teacher), but because she felt music was a “useless class” it “was not fun.” The things we read were boring, my voice was annoying, I talked to much about dead people, her complaints went on and on. She even started doing hair in my class.

Every time I tried to make things interesting, I was slapped down. I felt completely incompetent as a teacher. I bemoaned my inability she and other students made me feel, and one friend of mine said “it must be rough knowing you hate your job but can’t escape it.”

What? I hate my job? I love music and sharing it with others! Hate my job… I can’t possibly…

But I did. Students said things just to be hurtful. Their goal was to get me to not teach at all but allow them to have “free time” everyday. (Sure free time when you earn it, but not everyday.) Or get me fired so they had a substitute that let them do whatever everyday.

I realized that, I was letting a girl half my age, or less, tell me what I was. She decided everything about me and I let her. I let this slip of a girl grade me like a State Education Board Member.

What were her qualifications to tell me I was worthless?

So one day, she pulled out her combs and set to work. I pulled out our text and asked her to put away the combs.

After much whining and some yelling “what makes you think you can tell me” nonsense; I told her exactly what gave me the right to tell her.

I showed her my degree which some of her past music teachers did not have. My degree was specifically to teach music education. Not that other teachers were not above me in experience, because they were, but my ability to be a teacher had been called into question (“My momma said you were a volunteer because no one goes to school to teach music.”). I had to show my actual qualifications. Honestly, I had more qualifications than some music teachers in town.

I pulled out the state curriculum, and I showed the entire class what they were required to learn that year. Guess what? There were a lot of dead people to learn about (7.CR 1.1: Understand music in relation to geography, history, and culture of modern societies from the First Global Age (1450 AD) to the present.).

a lot. Of. Dead. People. In wigs. With diseases. Just sayin.

I had the directive to teach about this and much more.

But even better, I hazard that I had at least equal the life experience or more than they had. My students in this class, and others, had told me about my perfect white life. About my perfect riches, my loving parents, my sweater sets and picket fences.

So then I told them about my life experiences. Five students were crying by the end of my frank, but not ugly, assessment of my childhood. Two asked to see the school councilor, which I of course allowed. Cindy remained silent and staring.

The time for class came to an end and I walked the remaining students back to class. I immediately took myself to the principal and confessed my gross lack of decorum. I confessed my inability to separate my experiences from the students and my lesson for the day, which had not been taught.

He looked up from his desk paperwork and said “Sounds like it needed to happen. Very over due probably. I don’t see any wrong in this situation.” And with a slight nod, he went back to work.

I took myself down to the school councilor and made sure the two girls made it to her. She took me inside and shut the door. She said the girls spent the remainder of class sobbing about how horrible my life had been and how sorry they were and that they had composed for me an apology letter (I have no recollection if I actually got one or if I did, where it is).

Cindy… Yes Cindy never apologized, never did anything overly amazing except, she stopped doing hair in my class. She also failed on her own accord because “momma says your class doesn’t count in my GPA” which of course it does. The rest spread my story all over the school and I gained a strange sort of begrudging “she’s okay, I guess” from the kids that year. It would take more than a recollection of my childhood to get the kids to care. That was to be expected.

I learned that year, from many other incidents like this one, that my worth is defined by myself. If I feel I am a worthy sort of person then it really doesn’t matter how many Cindys I get. I have purpose, and I have something to give. Just because I cannot make everyone take that, does not mean I failed. Honestly, they do, grades in all.

Now I am going into my 4th year and I feel like, while I cannot predict how this year will go or what the next decade will bring; I can however go in everyday remembering I have worth. No one can tell me otherwise.

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4 Comments

  1. Introspective Turtle

    As a fellow teacher (although from the North side of the tracks, I am Canadian) it is refreshing to see how your honest approach helped your students to see YOU as a person and not JUST their teacher. In my opinion, making that personal connection is critically important. Good on ya 🙂

    Like

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