The principal’s words clanged in my head like a death sentence.
“God made me wrong,” I thought.
My eyes burned as hot tears rolled down my cheeks. I had poured my heart into teaching thirty-two animated third graders in a crowded classroom with orangey brown carpet and a noisy air conditioner at a failing Title I school in a high poverty area.
“What?” I still could not fathom what she said. Why wouldn’t anyone want a creative third grade teacher?
She continued, ”You’re too creative for where we are right now. You’re not cut out for teaching inner city.”
“But I taught inner city before in Washington,” I said.
“You and I both know that inner city in Washington is different than inner city here,” she stated, in a patronizing you-don’t-know-what-you’re talking-about tone.
I replied, “But I speak Spanish. I held my parent-teacher conferences in Spanish and the district didn’t need to pay for a translator. The students and parents love me.”
I realized then that talking to this administrator was futile. No matter how many “but I’s” I uttered, no matter how hard I worked with a spirit of excellence, no matter how I followed the state-mandated curriculum like super glue or charted the students’ progress on the standardized tests every six weeks, there was no pleasing this woman.
I collected my teacher planner and comp book. As I ducked out of her office, the words “too creative” tumbled in my head like a stinky sneaker in the dryer.
I cursed myself silently…why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Why no matter how much I stuck to the curriculum that I stuck out like a curly-haired sore thumb? Why couldn’t I just be an incognito teacher?
I called my husband, weeping, and then we met with Pastor Fred.
Did God Make Me Wrong?
I told Pastor Fred the story. I recounted my shame of being “too creative.”
He looked at me and said, ”Nancy, God didn’t make you wrong. You raised the bar.”
He explained that I had probably made someone look bad by elevating the teaching standard. Therefore, I was deemed too creative.
Although the situation was painful at the time, especially enduring the last weeks of the school year, I continued to work with a spirit of excellence and give my students and their parents the best educational experience I could.
Despite that, I struggled with the too creative two-ton chip I had on my shoulder. I felt as if I had to tone it down, hide my talents, and stifle my skills.
I wrestled with my creative identity for several years even though I did snag a phenomenal job at a wonderful school the next year, where they encouraged teacher creativity and innovation.
I know now that God just poured a double dose of creativity into me. It is not a curse. God designed me that way and infused me with wacky talents and out-of-the-boxiness.
I learned a few tidbits from my stint at that school:
1. You can’t please everyone. If you attempt to please everyone, you will please no one.
2. Work with a spirit of excellence, ethics, and integrity.
3. When dealing with negative naysayers or spirit stompers, hold your head high.
4. There are some people you cannot please, especially if they are schlepping around their own personal junk in the trunk. Do your personal best, and keep your side of the street clean.
God created you in your OWN wonderful, special way, with lots of talents and gifts that no one else has.
Have you ever been told you were too ___________?
What dormant talents have you been hiding? What do you feel called to share with the world? Go for it!