We had a performance today by an Indigenous Australian man from Northern Queensland. He was fantastic; had the students complete engaged, involved student participation, used some of his language. The first part was all about dance, the second was about throwing spears and boomerangs. It's the fairly stock standard thing that mainstream kids get --- surface details, but it was well done, and they were into it.
In the second part, he called for teacher volunteers to throw boomerangs. Rather than the teachers volunteering, the students started screaming our names. And I don't know, perhaps I should be proud, but my kids? By far and away the loudest. Seriously, their voices rose as one, chanting for me. (Actually, I am proud. It pleases me that my students know I'd have a go at something like this, that they want to see me do it, that they're enthusiastic.)
So, it's me and a male teacher, Mr R, and we're told how to throw the boomerang. I listen, and I think, "It doesn't sound too difficult, so this will probably fail spectacularly."
And oh man, do I suck. I suck badly. Mr R's goes flying through the air perfectly, looks amazing, is a true spectacle. My first go is absolutely pathetic, going about a metre ahead of me and not very high. My second (because I am offered a second) isn't much better. My students go, 'good try, Laura', 'that was great!' And it's --- it's pity. Adorable pity, but pity none the less.
I got it from teachers as well until the end of the day. "Laura, you were so brave./You had a go./You did a wonderful job./Of course Mr R's had to be insanely perfect, it's just his luck./Was it hard to throw?"
No, it wasn't hard to throw, I've just never been particularly athletically skilled, in anything, ever.
There was a keen sense that those teachers were there thinking, "I'm really glad it wasn't me who made a fool of myself in front of the entire school. HAHAHAHA." And, you know, that's human, and funniest home videos and reality shows exist for a reason. Schadenfreude is alive and well.
The thing is, my self-esteem is so fragile that I really wanted to cry. It reminded me all over again of that shitty moment during a 'Play is the Way' PD day when I fell over and couldn't stop the tears, and then was paraded in front of the staff of four other schools as a 'teaching point about building self-respect'. It humiliated me. I'm not always the most resilient. If I am in control of my stupidity, it's alright. If I'm dancing like a pillock and fully cognizant of how ridiculous I am being, I never worry about it. But when it's out of my control, it affects me, makes me feel raw, reminds me of past bullying, past idiocies. I have a history of thinking about humiliating situations decades after the fact.
I didn't cry. Not a single womanly tear. I laughed it off, pointed out that the fact I put the effort in was the most important thing, talked to my students about situations not always going the way you want them to, about not always being the winner, about what to do when someone's better than you, about what to do when you make a mistake.
I took everyone's lightly mocking pity and thought, "I don't need it, actually, but thanks all the same." And that's the point of this post. I'm not sure that would have been true even as recent as two years ago.
Perhaps you never fully get over self-esteem issues, maybe gaining a sense of self-worth if you don't start with much is only possible with time, it could just be that it takes effort for over-sensitivities to one day become mere sensitivities; no longer crippling. But there's hope.