Cheerleaders


What would high school be without them? Oh, I’m not talking about that troop of pretty girls (and one slightly chubby one with a SUPER personality) who have good rhythm and know all the catchy things to yell at a football game. Although, I do love some pom-poms. I am talking about the people who actually have your back, cheer for you and who are generally happy when you do well in life.

One day during my junior year I heard some kids gossiping about a faculty meeting of all the teachers who taught junior year students. They got together to collaborate on their students, ostensibly to identify and curtail any issues with students that went beyond, “yeah, that kid has trouble with math.” I was surprised that they had these sessions; I had never heard about them before. But, I was more surprised that two of the teachers had even 10 seconds worth of debate about me. See, the school I went to was the same school I had gone to since I was TWO YEARS OLD. Yup, that’s right. I started three-year-old kindergarten there the one year they tried the three year old kindergarten experiment, and having Indian immigrant parents who were stereotypically aggressive about their child’s academic advancement, I was put in about a month before I turned three.

So, by the time this junior year rolled around, I had been with twenty of these 60 or so students for over ten years. Half of my teachers had taught my sister and, to be honest, since I was a nerd and my sister was NOT, I was mostly a nice academic surprise for them, or so I thought. But, I assumed that was the thought that my teachers would have when they thought of me at all. But after 14 years in the same institution I did not expect to be thought of. I mostly felt like wallpaper. Sure, I was there. Maybe you even stared at me idly while you waited for something good or exciting to happen. But I wasn’t myself good or exciting. I didn’t give people nightmares either (I don’t think – I mean, if I did, let me know so I can apologize) but, I just wasn’t memorable. I was unobtrusive background, quickly forgotten.

But, then….but, then.

I heard about this meeting. One teacher was saying something about my smart mouth, attitude or irreverence or something anyway, and my favorite teacher in the world, Ms. Jane, hopped quickly to my defense. I don’t remember the specifics of what was said on either side; after all these years the details are gone. But, what I do remember is that this teacher saw something in me worth standing up for in a boring staff meeting. The fact that she was a passionate and outspoken advocate of many things and people did not diminish for one second the rush of happiness, of acceptance, of approval I felt at hearing this. I remember with crystal clarity how she praised our creative project on Dante’s Inferno (we made the game of ‘Hell’ – like the board game ‘Life’- only you started in the Pit of Hell and tried to get to Limbo. The best part was that there was no way to win. Maybe we left one spot that would let you eventually make your way to Purgatory, but that was the beauty of it). And that was just one of the many weird and nerdy pursuits she backed with such enthusiasm that those chicks with the pom-poms could have taken lessons.

I don’t mean to imply that in my whole highschool career that she was the one and only true cheerleader our little band of tiedyednotebook misfits had; we had many. One teacher brought the principal and the other classes in to hear our musical rendition of the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ set to the tune of ‘Come Together’ by the Beatles. Even though performing it made me feel slightly like a kid does when her parents drag her out to sing some song for their dinner guests, I still felt appreciated. It made me want to be damn sure that when those teachers looked again, they wouldn’t second-guess their opinion. It made me try harder and achieve more.

Don’t get me wrong, there were always plenty of people who made me feel like a jackass, too, like the musical director of the first play I was ever in who strongly encouraged me to lip sync. That blow to my ego has stayed with me and even now makes me self-conscious to sing in public. But, I have tried to let that go and sing anyway, because life just sucks too much when you don’t.

Maybe it’s that some people were always designed to be creative and good at something and I don’t think I was. I think I learned that it was ok to try even when you felt like a jackass. And I thank my teacher, the best teacher in the world, who taught me that.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tiedyednotebook
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 22:05:42

    You’re so right about the impact teachers (good and bad) have! I had a really clear example of that in high school too, where a teacher decided I shouldn’t be allowed to take a particular A.P. class. Later I found out that the A.P. teacher, who didn’t know me from Adam’s off ox, argued that I should be given a chance. She enrolled me in the class anyway, and turned out to be one of the best teachers I have ever had. Because of her, I ended up passing the A.P exam, getting an A, and graduating with far more confidence in math than I had ever had.

    It makes such a difference when teachers are really invested in helping students succeed, and trying to bring out the best in them. The worst teachers are the ones make it clear that they have a limited view of your potential, and don’t expect you to ever achieve more than that.

    Reply

  2. mandalaymai
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 00:59:01

    Yes, exactly! That’s exactly what I was trying to say – they adhere to a limited view of your potential. Some people succeed beautifully because they were too deluded to ever think they couldn’t. I wish I had more of that, but I know who to that for what little of it I do have!

    Reply

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