I have my turf at school. Others have theirs, and often never the twain shall meet. But one time it did, with some interesting consequences. A music teacher and the glee club coach have a lot in common. A music teacher and the home ec variety do not. What’s more, in that individual, I met my “nemesis.”
Nemesis comes from Greek mythology. (See, I know more than stuff about bands.) She was the spirit of divine retribution, a concept that was rampant in those ancient days. Now it has toned down to mean an opponent or rival; and in my case, it was of the female kind. It was kind of like a feud between a sewing machine and a guitar amp for the prize of best electric device, or stitching versus drumming as the best manual skill.
It all happened one sunny spring day when things were otherwise quiet around the campus. The band was deep in practice, and I imagine that several sewing machines were whirring away on the other side of the school. A student office worker came into my room with a note from the principal. There was to be a special day in the coming week in which certain subjects would be “combined” to show interdisciplinary teaching. I was to be slotted in with Miss Home Arts.
I was not thrilled, but not entirely displeased. We all were in the same boat with this cockamamie idea. The day drew near. Having discussed some lesson plans with the happy homemaker teacher, we decided to discuss equipment in our fields. I dutifully started to pull out some items.
On the day of the teaching exchange, she and I grouped ourselves and our students the larger of the classrooms: mine. I had drum set components, reeds, an electrical keyboard, a few instruments in the brass category, and other odds and ends. She brought in a brand new sewing machine, a knitting machine, a set of crochet hooks, and assorted scissors. We had the tools of our trades lined up.
This one does this… and this one does that. It went on for almost an hour. You could feel the tone in her voice, “mine is better. Everyone should learn to sew. It is more practical than music.” Yikes. Were we competing for status in the students’ eyes? She went on, “you can mend your clothes, save money making new ones, help out a friend….” What can a tuba do?
Music is the staff of life, everyone knows that, so I was a bit appalled. I was also at a loss for words. She could see the fear in my eyes. Would she convert any young minds? The stares were not blank, however, and the kids were listening intently.
“Music makes the world go round,” I spewed platitudes. It can’t fix a ripped seam, but it can fix a broken heart, I explained. It doesn’t have to be practical, but rather useful in its unique way. At the end of my mini tirade, the home ec gal gave me a wry smile. “Yes, of course,” she cooed. “You are so right. This has been a good game, hasn’t it?” So, it had been a ruse all along! She paused for a moment to think, and added a final thought before the bell rung. “Come in and use our sewing machines anytime. Next year, let’s make the new band uniforms.”