Teaching in the Sixties, One Regret

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.

 

Meany Middle School location.

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.)

The Year Book.

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.

There’s a blue moon on August 31.

 

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2 responses to “Teaching in the Sixties, One Regret

  1. Christine Thomson Soltero

    Cyndy…I had no idea you actually TAUGHT at Meany! I know those years where full of tumult and rage and lots of BIG changes for everyone, and now I see that you were right in the thick of it! I loved my years at Meany…I played in the orchestra ( in the 9th grade I was First Violin ! ) and thought having an Orchestra period where we got to play music for an hour was just about the coolest thing in the world! Of course, that was in 1957 thru 60. the changes you write about were still in the brewing and barely-percolating stages but we all seemed to get along great. That’s how I remember it, but maybe that’s not how a lot of kids do. Thanks for your blogpost, and I loved it! Christine

  2. Hi, Christine,
    Yes, it was so different from when we went there. And you are absolutely right when you say the changes were barely percolating then. I’m loving everyone’s memories! Take care.

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