Karin Stratton would be the first to tell you she has failed a lot as a teacher.
You see, she explained, she never really planned on teaching at all. Teaching was just supposed to be short-term, a secondary career to the one she really wanted as an actress.
First, she taught third-graders at Vacation Bible School. Then, she moved on to teaching students at small private Christian schools in Kentucky and Chicago.
She was surprised to find out the Bible was pretty explicit — maybe not such great reading material for her youngest students. And the stylings of Whitney Houston were probably better left out of a religious classroom. Playing cards? Not the best way to teach math.
But every failure played a part in her journey as an educator. Turns out, she was right where she needed to be.
Stratton, who now teaches theater at Pike High School in Indianapolis, was one of several teachers and students who participated in a recent story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, and Big Car Collaborative.
Here’s an excerpt of her story. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:
I had sixth-graders in this little Christian school and they were pretty, I would say, hellacious. Very trying. And there were occasions when they would be so bad, and I knew I had this imitation of a force that they could not reckon with.
And so I would say, “SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET!”
… Then the president of the Christian school came to me and said, “We understand you do imitations of the devil.”
“Desperate times, sir.”
“Next time,” he says, and he gives me this big ol’ board, “You’ve got to hit ‘em.”
So I decided I’m not doing that anymore. We just try to work things out.
Well you see, I made some bad choices. I let them listen to secular music, and we made a play based upon things like homelessness and “don’t do drugs” and what not, and (Whitney) Houston’s song “Greatest Love of All.”
Well I didn’t know that we were not supposed to listen to that kind of music … so I wasn’t hired back at the school. And I failed. But that failure led me to a place called Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chicago, Ill.
Check out the video below to hear the rest of Stratton’s story.
You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.