The lesson passed by in a blur. As always, nothing escaped from the routine: listening, completing, more listening, more completing, coursebook, workbook, extra practice… This path, this sequence, had always been the same since the very first day.
But that was about to change today.
“Okay, now that we finished this task…” I paused for a few seconds, just to see the students’ reactions. “Let’s have some fun!”
“Yeeessss, Miss Agustina!” exclaimed Micaela. She seemed really excited about the whole thing. “What are we going to do?”
“What about…” Another pause. “…singing a song?”
This time, the look on most of their faces were giving away reluctant, doubtful vibes, as if they didn’t feel like singing at all.
“Mmm… I’m not sure, to be honest” Camila said.
“I don’t like music at all, miss” commented Sebastian, known in the class for being quite the joker and the edgy one.
But as always, Micaela jumped in defence of my idea.
“But you don’t even know which song she’s gonna give us, Seb” she said to him.
“Yeah, I think you’re right” added Florencia.
The other three students, Valentina (yeah, I have a student with her name) and Lautaro, who didn’t talk much in my classes, only nodded at Florencia’s words.
“Well, my loves” I said in a steady, confident tone, “first I wanna ask you a question.”
Silence. For a few seconds. Silence.
“So, do you know… Taylor Swift?”
As I finished mentioning this singer (my favourite, by the way), Micaela’s face turned bright with excitement.
“No way you’re...” and she paused.
“A swiftie?” I finished her question. “Yes, I am.”
After that, everyone started asking questions about Taylor.
“Who’s Taylor Swift?”
“What’s a swiftay?”
Glad they asked about her.
“Well, Taylor Swift is an American singer, and a swiftie is a fan of her music” I said as I wrote it on the whiteboard. “As I said, I’m a swiftie, and her music means the world to me.”
Micaela was smiling like she just got her favourite book as a Christmas present.
“And what are we singing, miss?” asked Camila.
“Yes, miss!” exclaimed Mica, very excited. “I hope it’s one from the re-recorded albums.”
Well, that’s when I met my soulmate in the form of a swiftie student.
“Indeed, it’s a re-recorded song, Mica” I answered. “Actually, it’s from the first re-recorded album, and it goes under the same name as its album.”
“I don’t know the song or Taylor, but I’m all ears” said Cami, eager to listen to the song.
But, of course, there was always to be one that would show apathy and indifference.
“If it’s not Michael Jackson or Metallica, I’m out of this” spat Sebastian.
“Hey, don’t be such a party-pooper” replied Mica.
Seb was not planning on backing out, though. Although I wished he would.
“It’s not my fault that this Taysor Lwift isn’t that famous.”
Not that famous, he said. Do you effing live under a rock or something?
“Um, I will let it slide” I finally said, trying to keep my cool. And I smiled at them. “You ready for the song?”
The kids nodded in agreement. Except one, obviously.
“I was born ready, baby” answered Cami.
“LET’S PARTAYYYYY!!!” Mica almost shouted, and I feared that Luciana, the headteacher, would come to our classroom and lecture us all.
But it didn’t happen. Okay, it’s all under control. For now.
So, I hit the play button on the old CD player, and the song started playing.
“AAAA IT’S FEARLESS!!!” exclaimed Mica, really smitten my heart was beating fast in happiness.
“Wow, I love this song already” commented Cami.
So far, so good.
“…We’re driving down the road, I wonder if you know…” I was singing along with Taylor.
“The song sound like a children’s song to me” spat Sebastian, as if I wasn’t standing in front of him.
But then again, I had to let it slide.
Even though it was becoming harder and harder to hold up.
“… ‘Cause I don’t know how it gets better than this…” I continued, some of the kids singing along with me.
“You’re right, Seb” Florencia turned to look at him. “I just wanna go home.”
Focus on the ones singing with you, Agus. Focus on them.
“…in my best dress, fearless…” Cami was singing as if she were Taylor.
For a few seconds, things went on smoothly.
But when it was time for the second chorus… well…
“I don’t know what this piece of paper is useful for” Sebastian said, standing up and walking toward the wastepaper bin.
No, no, no, no.
“What are y--?” I tried to reason with him, but he didn’t even stop to listen to me.
“Oh no, this isn’t good” said Mica, looking at me concerned.
Then, Sebastian, in the best “I-don’t-give-a-sh*t-about-the-teacher” style, stood still in front of me, his eyes darting fire at mine, the music still playing in the background.
“At least I’m not pretending to like something that I clearly don’t like and have no interest in” he said to me.
That was it. That was the final straw.
Having walked furiously toward the CD player, I pressed the stop button.
“Yeah? Well, I can’t take it anymore!” I almost shouted at him. “Let’s stop right here, right now!”
Even though it hurt me to look at the other kids’ happy expressions turning worried and sad in a matter of seconds, I knew there was no turning back.
“There you have, bunch of idiots!” Cami snapped at Sebastian and Florencia, obviously very pissed off. “Look what you made her do!”
Yes, look what you made me do.
No need to say that I was about to scream or tell them to f*ck off.
“I can’t work with you like this, not when you do nothing but interrupt, complain and goodness knows what else while we’re trying to sing to the song” I almost shouted, enough to let them know that I wasn’t joking, that I was more than disappointed.
“I promise I didn’t do anything, miss” Mica said, looking at me apologetically.
I didn’t say anything to her, but one glance at her seemed enough to let her know that I wasn’t mad at her and that I appreciated her concern.
But, of course, there were the ones that would still defy me.
“Well, if it means we’re not hearing anything more from Taylor Swift, then fine by me” said Sebastian, looking at me as if he wanted to jump at me.
That was it.
That was the moment I knew nothing would be the same with this class.
But I knew also that, if I chose to speak my mind in the heat of the moment, I would probably say things to the kids that I’d surely regret later.
“You know what? We’re talking about this later” I said finally. “You’re free to go home if you want, I don’t care.”
Not so surprisingly, most of the kids stood up and said their goodbyes. Everyone, except Sebastian and Florencia.
I will definitely talk with their parents about this.
However, Micaela and Camila stayed for a few more minutes. Once the rest left the classroom, they both wrapped me in a tight hug I didn’t expect but needed so much.
“I’m so sorry about today, Miss Agus” Cami said. “I can’t believe they would do that to you.”
“Me too, teacher” added Mica. “Are you alright?”
No, I just want to go home and channel my feelings about all of this somehow.
“I’ll be okay, butterflies” I answered them. “But thank you for staying longer and making me company.”
“We love you” they said in unison, and it made me feel a little better to know that they had my back.
“I love you two too.”
It was hard to hold my tears as the little girls kept embracing me.
“See you on Wednesday, girls?”
“You bet, Agus” they both said. “Take care and say hi to your wife for us.”
“Will definitely do, thanks.”
After they both left, I picked up my folder with left-over photocopies, said my goodbyes to my other colleagues and left the building into the autumn fresh afternoon weather, glad that I had to walk home and that I could distract my mind for a bit by looking at the trees becoming yellower and listening to my favourite country music songs.
Knowing that, once back home, I’d probably have to let my anger go somehow.
Once I got home, I immediately let go of my bag and my phone, letting them fall on the floor. I didn’t know how I had held back my tears for the whole walk back to the apartment, but that was about to change.
That class just makes me feel miserable and useless at this job.
Unable to hold back anymore, I found myself slowly falling to the ground. I was feeling weak, my head was spinning around. My breathing pace was faster and hard to keep up with. It sank in that it was indeed a horrible day at work, where my hopes of a wonderful experience sharing my likes with that class shattered once one single student started complaining and made others turn against my idea.
I just can’t believe they did this to me when I didn’t do anything wrong.
I was unable to hear any sound other than my sobs, that I didn’t hear the door opening and closing. That was until I felt a pair of arms around my waist.
“I’m here now, elskede” Valentina said, not asking me questions or pushing me to speak when I wasn’t ready. “I got you.”
I let her pull me closer to her, still crying, but feeling warmer in the inside, thankful that I had Val in my life. She had been always patient with me whenever I had a draining, horrible day, never leaving me alone, always being there for and with me.
“Remember what I’ve taught you for whenever you’re invaded by negative thoughts?” she asked, almost whispering, her voice so soothing in my ear it sent a wave of calmness through my whole body. While she waited for an answer, she wiped out my tears.
Slowly, I was feeling calmer, my breathing taking its normal pace.
“I remember” I answered softly, slightly lifting my head from her shoulder.
Indeed, I remembered what she told me years ago, in a similar situation.
A deep breath in… A deep breath out… In… Out… In… Out…
As I focused on my breathing, Val never let go of my hands.
NO! I don’t want to think about this anymore. GO AWAY!
“Are you feeling better? Val asked, smiling at me.
There she is, pulling me out of the darkness with that sweet smile.
“I am now, Val” I answered, looking at her. “Thank you for being here when I need you the most.”
Without saying anything else, she softly presses her lips against mine in a short but tender kiss. If her sole presence was enough for me to feel at ease after the rough afternoon I had, the kiss was a consistent proof of that.
“I love you.”
“I love you too, min skatt.”
Right then, she stood up and offered me a hand, which I gladly took.
“Up for some coffee or mates?” she asked.
I playfully placed my thumb between my lips and softly pretended to suck it.
“Got it” she answered and walked toward the kitchen.
I decided to sit down on a chair near the kitchen, and that was when I realized how tired and drained I was feeling.
“Today was just a disaster at the institute, Val” I started telling her the events of the afternoon, with specific detail. Even though I wasn’t looking at her, I could tell she was paying close attention to everything I was saying. I didn’t realize she was now next to me until she handed me a mate.
“I don’t know what came over those two kids that turned against me” I continued after drinking the mate.
“Look, you know that you have my support no matter what” she said, and it made me fear what she would say next.
I can feel a “but” coming.
“But you should also consider that not all your kids will like Taylor or know anything about her.”
Even though I hated to admit it, she was right.
“However, that isn’t an excuse for those kids to act the way they did, and your reaction was understandable. And good thing you decided to leave it there and talk in a better state of mind the next lesson with them.”
“I will talk to all of them in general first, then privately with Florencia and Sebastian.”
Val nodded. Talking with her about this kind of topics was always refreshing. And the fact that she was a psychologist was a boost. It made me understand every problem better and helped me find solutions quickly.
“It’s all up to you what you decide to do. Just take into consideration what I told you.”
“I think I should talk to Luciana about this issue as well. She has to know about this.”
Immediately, Val placed a hand on mine and squeezed it softly.
“I’m one hundred percent sure you’ll do what your heart feels is right.”
This time, it was me that leaned in for a kiss.
“I love it when you talk poetic” I whispered, smiling on her lips.
“Says the writer of this small family” she replied, now wrapping her arms around my waist to pull me closer to her. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Two days later, it was time to face the music. Walking into the institute half an hour before my lesson started, I let myself into Miss Luciana’s classroom to talk to her about the events of last Monday.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa” she immediately said. “That’s so intense, but why did you wait two whole days to tell me this?”
Deep breath in… Deep breath out…
“Honestly? I needed a clearer head and some more time to process everything in order for me to talk to you now. That’s why I’ve waited.”
She only nodded as she wandered around her second favourite room -as she referred to her classroom- in search of her materials for her lessons.
“Talk to them all first, but don’t spend too much time dwelling on that because you need to speed up a little.”
“Okay, Luciana, will do.”
After a few seconds, she approached me and hugged me softly.
“I know that may’ve been hard for you, Agustina” she said, caressing my back, “but it’s part of being a teacher. Don’t let it bring you down because you’re one of the best teachers here, and I know you love what you do.”
Some more seconds passed by, and I found myself walking confidently toward my classroom, with all my materials ready to use.
And a much-needed conversation with my students.
“Okay, kids” I said to them after greeting them. “I think we need to address the elephant in the room, right?”
They nodded, although I wasn’t sure whether they understood what I said or not.
“Do you remember our lesson on Monday? Well, I remember coming here very excited about what I had planned for you. I’ve been looking forward to work that song with you after we sang it together, as a short and fun practical assignment.
“However, I saw some attitude in some of you that I didn’t take well, and that I would never. First, because I’ve made an effort to fit that activity within the lesson and it went to waste. Second, because even though you’re on your right not to like what I like, you chose the wrong way to express your discomfort. And third, your words and actions really, really hurt my feelings, more than you may’ve realized.
“This is why I’ve decided not to work with songs in this class anymore. It’s a hard decision, but I can’t risk feeling betrayed again and, well, as hurt as I was last Monday.”
The kids looked at me with understanding eyes, some sadder than others, some full of regret… but a few others didn’t show any sign of remorse, as if they really enjoyed messing with people’s feelings.
“Florencia and Sebastian, I want to speak to you at the end of this lesson” I firmly said to them, making them know that I wasn’t messing around. They nodded, but didn’t seem to care that much.
The lesson went by uneventfully, and before I knew it, it was almost time to wrap. After saying goodbye to the kids -and letting Micaela and Camila hug me again-, it was time to speak personally with Flor and Seb.
“I hope you know why you’re here with me” I started.
They only nodded.
“I have absolutely nothing against either of you, but your attitude last Monday was pathetic, to say the least.”
“Sorry if that offended you, teacher” said Flor, “but I’ve been taught to speak my mind, and I meant it when I said I didn’t enjoy the song.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at her latter comment.
“I was clear enough with my music preferences” added Seb, “so I think this conversation is pointless.”
“You know what is pointless? It’s pointless not letting the others enjoy something they might end up liking or that already like. It’s pointless keeping interrupting the activity because of your own discomfort. It’s pointless because at the end you lose more than I.
“I fully respect other people’s opinions, likes and all of that, so I ask you to do the same. Not for me, but for you. Otherwise…”
They suddenly looked up at me, as if they saw a ghost or something.
“Otherwise, I’ll have to speak to your parents about this, and I don’t think they’ll like to hear about what their children did. And there’s a recording to prove it.”
“What?!” exclaimed Florencia. “How? Who did such a horrible thing?”
“You two did such a horrible thing by constantly interrupting the activity!” I almost shouted, seemingly about to lose my temper. “Don’t even try to put the blame on any of your classmates or me!”
Sebastian just laughed, as if he was just seeing a clown doing silly things in front of him.
And Florencia? Well, she just yawned without covering her mouth intentionally.
That’s it, I’m calling your parents.
As fast as I could, I sent a quick message to their respective families and told them to stop by the institute immediately.
Which they did, and it took the kids by surprise.
Calmer than a few seconds ago, I explained the situation to the parents, showing them a short video recording and a long audio recording of the events of that lesson. I also let them know about their behaviour problems in class.
“Is that true, young girl?” Florencia’s dad asked her.
“Umm…” she paused for a second, as if she lost her ability to breathe or speak. “Yeah, it’s true, daddy.”
“Are you really gonna admit it, Florencia?” Sebastian spat at her.
“Shut up, you too!” his mother exclaimed, looking furious. “I raised you better than this, young boy.”
“Are you going to side with her, mum?” he asked, pointing a finger at me.
At this point, I don’t care about these two and their antics anymore.
“She is your teacher, and she deserves respect” the woman replied, raising slightly her voice. “Not this attitude your showing now.”
Even though I wished I would’ve talked to the kids’ parents under better circumstances, I was glad I called them. After saying goodbye to them and thanking them for coming, I walked directly to Luciana’s classroom and filled her in of my conversation with them.
“Luciana, if those kids stay here, I don’t know if I’d want to continue working with that class, although most of them are really good kids and I like working with them.”
“So, you say that they didn’t even show regret in front of their parents” she said, looking at me pensively. “And these two have always been disruptive years prior…”
The anticipation is killing me.
“It’s up to you what to do with them, Agustina.”
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