Updated: Jul 25, 2022
6th Grade was full of new experiences: lockers, textbooks, CD's, boyfriends, mascara, curled bangs, perfectly scrunched tube socks. Middle School had arrived and everything seemed bigger. The building looked like one giant maze and the fear of getting lost was very real. Luckily, all of us tiny 11 year olds we were tucked away at the end of the 6th Grade hall, unseen by the towering upperclassman.
My homeroom teacher was Mr. Adams. He'd been an educator for decades and ironically, had my stepmom, Rhonda, during his first year of teaching. High on his classroom walls was a line of class photos that wrapped around the room. The line started with a photo picturing Rhonda, or as Mr. Adams called her, "Honda Rhonda".
I soon became Jonesy.
Mr. Adams was authentic. He often spoke about potential and the value of treating others with respect. Academics were taken seriously and the bar was held at the right height. The encouragement I felt in his classroom made me feel safe and excited to learn.
On top of pushing us academically, Mr. A had the ability to crack us all up at the drop of a dime. Sometimes with his hilarious Blue Brothers shuffle, or at other times with his invisible dog who lived in the classroom closet. Mr. Adams wasn't afraid to be his own unique individual, which I appreciated.
A couple of months into the school year, I was given a heavy dose of reality. I received a C- on a Science test right before Christmas break. When handed the test, I fought back tears, as it was my first bad grade. I asked about any possible extra credit to make up for the loss. He told the class something like this...
"water with effort and bloom or cease to grow".
The message I took: to give little effort from the start, enables poor results and leads to disappointment. By giving more effort from the start, you enable better results, leading to happiness and personal growth. Makes perfect sense.
For the first time, I started looking inward to discover my own individual interests. My wants and needs. My strengths and weaknesses. I felt empowered knowing that my future could be controlled by me and me alone. As long as I put forth a valiant effort in the things that I say and do, I would continue to grow.
Christmas break was over and I had come to terms with the science test blow. It was a new year and we were getting ready for the annual rollerskating field trip. The 6th Grade class arrived at the Roller Valley and got to work, skating all the classic rink games - Hokey Pokey, Limbo, Speed Skate, Couples Skate. We were in heaven and more then likely, gliding to the likes of Ace of Base or Boyz 2 Men. Then, God only knows why, we decided to attempt the conga line.
A good momentum started to build up, when someone fell from the back, creating a domino effect. Laughing hysterically, we began to fall. Out of nowhere, I felt a burning pain coming from my left wrist that I had never experienced before. I became dizzy. Feeling completely disoriented, I made my way to the nearest dining booth with the help of my friends. It ended up that one of my classmates rolled over my wrist. At that point, I could have cared less who did it, all I could think about was getting to the table to set my arm down. I knew something was seriously wrong.
A few teachers checked it out and advised me to sit until the field trip ended. I ate ice chips in a daze. Then nausea set in. I asked for a vomit bag, knowing there was no way I was capable of getting to the restroom on time.
As for the bus ride back to the school and then to home, I have zero recolection. That part was a complete blur. At 4PM, my mom returned home from work to find me passed out on the living room floor. The first recollection post roller rink for me was waking up in the E.R. around 5PM. Directly below the wrist area, my left radius was broken in 2 spots and the Ulna, slightly fractured. I returned to school that following Monday and to my classmate's surprise, I had a bright purple cast and a pack of .
When Spring arrived, "Galaxy of the Stars" was announced over the morning announcements. "Galaxy" was an annual talent show. Homeroom classes were required to create a performance and present it in front of the entire school. All performances were judged by a panel and awarded various things. Pretty sure it was a pizza party, woot woot!
As 6th graders, we were the newbs and therefore, clueless as to how to approach Galaxy. One thing was certain, the upperclassmen were filling the halls with posters promoting the event and the school began to buzz. It was becoming clear that Galaxy was a big deal.
On the first morning of brainstorming, Mr. Adams gathered us around a casette player and played Marvin Gaye's, "I Heard it Through the Grapevine". The plan he presented was hilarious, fun and entertaining. Our class agreed that we would now transform into "The California Raisins".
We decided that the band would need one lead vocalist, a handful of backup vocalists, one drummer, guitarist, bassist, and a few raisins on keys. The remaining raisins would be assigned to backup dancers. Mr. Adams told us that we could sign up for whatever role we desired and an anonymous class vote would take place if multiple students chose the same role.
After everyone's choices were made, I was informed that my fellow classmate Craig, both popular and cute, chose the same role as me. I was immediately tempted to forfeit the role. One year prior, we moved to West Valley school district. I had a great group of new friends, but Craig had known everyone for what seemed a lifetime. Self doubt set in, "how could I compete with Craig? Was it worth the embarrassment of losing?".
Later that day, I told him that I was thinking about giving the role to Craig. He continued to remind me something along the lines of, that as a homeroom, we've built an environment that is safe for healthy competition. He went on to say that Craig and I are appreciated in our classroom for different reasons. We both have different creative strengths. He mentioned my keen ear for music. He mentioned Craigs attributes. He ended by telling me something along the lines of, "both of you are unique with hidden talents that you deserve to share when you're ready."
In that moment, I decided I was ready, despite Craig's popularity and cute face.
Craig and I were each given a copy of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" on cassette. The expectation was to come back after the weekend ready to perform our versions. The class would watch during homeroom the following Monday and vote.
When I arrived home, I told my mom about the assignment and rushed to my room to get started on choreographing. I loved dance, but at that point had never created a dance on my own. From the second I pushed play, everything fell into place. Choreographing felt more natural than I ever expected.
Parts of me are rooted in rock, blues, pop and soul music. I've loved Marvin Gaye since I was tiny.
Play, stop, rewind, repeat.
By Sunday evening, I had created a performance that I was confident to present to my peers.
Monday morning came and the classroom chairs were rearranged into a large circle. We were to perform our version of the classic song in the middle of the circle, while dressed in a commercial size garbage sack. Getting the right look was apparently worth the slight asphyxiation we all experience. After homeroom ended, everyone went about there days.
On Tuesday morning, the results were in. Mr. Adams announced that I, Melissa Ann Jones, had won the class vote for 'Lead Raisin'! The show came and, in my eyes, was nothing less than epic. I felt empowered at a new level from that point on. The power of believing in ourselves is real and this moment brings me strength in times of self doubt. With a little confidence, I was able to open up my life to dance.
Looking back, I now realize how much this empowered me as a human. Never before had I been given the opportunity to take the stage and I wanted it badly. The value of an encouraging teacher is priceless. As strange as it may sound, the 'Lead Raisin' role was a pivotal Monet in my life. I was empowered by the dance I had created and couldn't wait to perform for my peers.