Here is your certificate, now the parents own you.
One of the drawbacks to teaching, and unlike some teachers I don't find too many, is that upon receiving a contract we suddenly find ourselves scrutinized by more people than I am comfortable with. Our students watch us; our peers watch us; our administration watches us; our district personnel watch us; the parents watch us. The government even watches us.
The difficulty for me is that it means I am always on stage. The opportunity to be human goes out the door. If one of the many people watching you finds they don't like something about you, life can become quite difficult.
Over at Right on the Left Coast a fellow teacher is under attack, by an irate parent, for his commentary on an act of protest. His follow-up post receives quite a few comments. In looking back at the frenzy I created a few months back with a post about a tradition at my school (I removed the original post and replaced it with an apology--though I DID NOT HAVE TO), I must consider what, if anything, we lose as individuals when we become teachers.
Clearly there is a code of professional behavior, but does that code mean we must lose our right, away from the school to live within the bounds of the law. It is one thing if a teacher is violating a law, of course we should face up to the penalties that our laws state. But if a teacher feels the need to write, on his blog, about a social movement or anything else, does the employing school or a parent, have any right to censor that speech?
A perception lingers, perhaps from an age when teaching was done in a one room school-house, that teachers are somehow the embodiment of what the community values. But clearly this is an unattainable goal in modern society. My values as a teacher are potentially far different from that of the community I teach in. Perhaps I am too conservative or too liberal. Too youthful or too old fashioned. We should have the right, just as anybody else in this world, to have opinions and share them.
One of the people I respect the most in my life is a boss from a hotel I worked at. He is African-American and lived in the heart of Texas during a time of great prejudice and hate. I asked him once what it was like to experience injustice and hateful put-downs. How could he tolerate the beliefs of those people and not want to be the same way back. His response forever shaped the way I approach people with different values than me. He said, "You know what, people can believe any way they want. They have that right. They can say what they want, because they have that right. It doesn't mean they are right, only they have the right. "
Frankly, I am tired of living in a world where we cannot speak if it doesn't match-up with what others are looking for. It doesn't matter to me whether you are religious or not, politically to the right or to the left; we need to be able to have a voice of affirmation or dissent.
As teachers, we should be a representation of the world around us. Our administrators and central offices should not expect mindless lemmings. Our students and parents should not expect us to be the same as them. There is much more to education than algorithms, timelines, chemical equations, and iambic pentameter. There is something to be said about learning how to accept others while disagreeing with them. There is something to be said about evaluating one's personal beliefs through honest and open discourse.
If we are constantly looking to do battle over the inconsequential differences, we will never find a way to compromise on the issues that do matter.
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