I switched middle schools in the seventh grade which made it hard for me to find myself. Since I was twelve turning thirteen, it was a transitional period into something different. It was the stage from child to teenager where you find out who you are as a person, a member of society, where you are classified in the school’s popularity contest and ultimately who you will be for the remainder of your life. I did not know who I was, I flew under the radar so I was not a member of society and I was not popular but teased and isolated. This led to not having a lot of friends and evasion of socializing with my peers most if not all of the time. The only thing I had to help me cope with this void I had inside was art.
I loved art because I was able to express what I was feeling with paint, charcoal, and clay. What made it better was my art teacher, Ms. Debby. She was an older woman with curly hair with gray streaks but nonetheless, one of the kindest people I have ever met. She was always smiling which would sometimes suppress my somber, distant persona. She was warm and she accepted me and at the time, this was an alien concept. Usually I showed carelessness and neglected to work with anyone, whether it was mandatory or not. My emotional coldness and lack of empathy for others was immediately dismissed whenever she was around or I was making art. Another thing art gave me was a circle of friends who felt the same social awkwardness. They were all in an oddity that was unexplainable to the people who were apart from it. Art was an outlet that gave some happiness and people who were in a similar place as I was.
The school’s popularity contestants were all befuddled that I and the rest of my fellow peers did not want to belong to their group. This is a group where everyone is the same, have the same ideals, have same hobbies and many other similar compatibilities. It is funny how the people who are at the “top” of the ladder want to include your presence when you find something more and sometimes even better than what they have to offer you. In a way, they only want to see you feel better or make friends if it is under their terms and principles. I found out soon after that I deserved better than that and decided to still be the “lone wolf” of the circle in my head. I can honestly say that most of my friends have very distinct differences with me hence the phrase; opposites attract. I can look back and say that the “clique” within my dreams did help me cope with the harsh reality that I dealt with everyday but scarred me psychologically with anti-social tendencies.
Ms. Debby’s inviting and welcoming personality changed me for the limited amount of time that I was with her. During regular classes, I was the child/teenager who sat in the back and did not say anything. Having an idea or a question would result in laughter and discrimination against me. That is why people did not know who I was by name but as “the boy who we laugh at”. But when I would go to art, I would always feel reinvigorated with energy. Her infectious persona filled me with bravado when we talked about art or as person/member of society. But all of this went down the drain when my principal decided to be a wet blanket and did not renew her contract.
By doing this, he was restricting her from coming back in the fall. Many students already had an immediate disliking of the principal and this stunt was considered the last straw for us. I usually do not follow the crowd but at that time, I didn’t have much of choice. I had my own objectives and was not conforming to anyone even though they were allies in this case. They were enemies that I had a temporary truce with until we could destroy the monster who wanted to spread unhappiness amongst all of us.
We petitioned to have the renewal followed through as planned. Since it was a known fact to everyone in my grade that I was semi-great at art (because of the time spent with Ms. Debby) I was assigned to design posters and picket signs. When using words and understanding did not work, we proceeded with a bang: striking. Almost every student did not do any work until we received word that Ms. Debby’s contract was renewed. Something that was surprising during this entire experience is that not single punch was thrown. Some of the students were very upset with the monster’s (my principal) decision and were bloodthirsty enough to start a riot but there was not. He said that it was a lack of money because the school was relatively new. Although, I knew that that was true, nobody except Ms. Debby was going to lose their job and some people were even gaining jobs as administrators. I can gladly say that even though I did not like or have anything in common with my peer group, they did show decorum and handled the situation like young adults instead of insane teenagers. The only reason I did not feel anything any emotion towards Ms. Debby’s firing was because I was used to things falling apart and the amount of instability at my school. Since Ms. Debby and I had a close connection, she understood what it meant. She understood that I was internalizing it and known that opening up or showing weakness was not my strong suit.
Sadly, our concerted efforts did not work and Ms. Debby still left in the fall. The next year when we met our new art teacher, I strayed away from art because I only had Ms. Debby’s bright aura to help me continue on. Without it, I felt lost again in an oddity I cannot explain just like in the seventh grade. Even though she was gone, she was not forgotten and I knew that she did not forget me as well. Soon after this happened, I came to an absolution.
Some things do not last forever but at this time, I did not want Ms. Debby’s employment to be terminated. Therefore, I felt obligated to do something, but not just for me, for her and the entire administration. I wanted to show people that I and my peers have a voice and that we should be heard since we are the resource that qualifies the establishment as a “school”. By trying to change something, I went out of my comfort zone to fight for someone and something that I truly care about. I partnered with people who I had nothing in common with but fought for a common purpose with and I can honestly say that they fought a hard battle.
As for Ms. Debby, I cannot say what happened to her but I know that she remembers my effort to fight for her job. Wherever she is and whatever she may be doing, I hope that her co-workers treat her with respect and dignity. But one thing that I will never forgive, is my principal’s stupidity in handling the situation. He caused the uproar that made the students act like a pack of rabid wolves, smelling nothing but blood. In the end since we fought alongside each other, I guess you may be able to say that we are a “pack”.