I don’t really regret much in my life. I’ve always believed I had a strong moral compass that led me in the right direction. And I almost always try to do the right thing. But today, my confidence in the belief that I have known what the right thing is was shaken.
I was in my workout class doing crunches to the Marcels singing Blue Moon when I was hit with a hammer of regret. I remembered back to the late Sixties when I was Talent Show director at Meany Junior High in Seattle.
It was a crazy time period—rapid social change fueled by good intention and bad, resulting in a lot of chaos. Just doing a talent show was unusual. Some of the kids had gotten up acts lip-syncing to the music of that era.
“No,” I said. “Lip syncing is not a talent. You have to sing the song with your own voices. Then you can be in the talent show.”
What stupidity on my part! Now I know it would have been so beneficial for these kids to just have participated in a show. So what if they lip-synced (ask Madonna, etc.)? They would have had fun doing something positive in school.
But, oh, no! Judgmental little twenty-one-year-old me showed them the door. Was “True Art” so almighty important to me?
I don’t remember the acts that were in the show. I do remember that my husband came, and he was one of the only people to stand for the flag salute. And roving bands of kids overturned a lot of cars in the parking lot. (Ours was untouched so I don’t think it was a Lip-Sync Vendetta.) It was just that kind of era.
I was pretty rigid in my standards back then. Things were right or things were wrong—black or white. I hadn’t had the life experiences to know that there are many shades of gray having validity. I gained some of that insight in the next few years. By the time I left teaching at Meany, there weren’t talent shows anymore. Instead there were lock-downs and riots, and kids coming to class stoned. I was happy if I could get people to just put their name in the top left-hand corner of the paper. I was grateful that the Obey Tate decided to pull his gun on Mr. Wilson’s class instead of mine the next period. (Funny how you never forget some names.)
I know I cared about my students, and believed in them. (except for the guy who scared me spit-less when he did show up. Usually he didn’t because he had taken over his brother’s job while he was in Vietnam. The brother was a pimp so Virgil worked all nighters and didn’t come to school much.) I know I wanted to teach my students how to read and write and speak. I felt these were tools to success for everyone. I still do. I know I encouraged people to think for themselves. I think I did a good job. But I do wish I’d let those kids lip-sync. My apologies to any of them reading this.