Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sinking Ships

Imagine that you are on a sinking ship. You know it is sinking, and every day it gets a little closer to going under. On the ship, you know how to swim, but none of the other passengers do. You offer to teach them - to save their lives.

“I know how to swim!” you exclaim, excited that you have the opportunity to help. “I can teach you all - I can save your lives! Just do everything that I say and you will be able to swim - you will live!” You begin to tell them what to do. You first show them an example, demonstrating floating, strokes, and breathing. Then you ask them to do it with you.

“F-ing Redneck!” says a voice in the back. You look around. Surely this voice is not referring to you - you aren’t a redneck - you are teaching EVERYONE to swim, regardless of their race.
“F-ing white trash skank!” the voice repeats itself, just as you begin to show them breaststroke. You glance at yourself - certainly you are white, but you don’t think that the ‘trash’ part could really be in reference to you. You actually look quite classy today. You go on, ignoring the strange distraction, attributing it to some poor soul’s bad case of turrets.
“I hate that f-ing teacher - she’s such a redneck - always talking.” other teachers’s a little harder to deny that this comment may be in reference to you. And you do like to talk...

Perhaps I am making my job sound more noble than it is. Teaching isn’t exactly the same as swimming, and technically, the ship that we are on isn’t sinking. But things aren’t looking so hot for the future of my students, and I so have the capacity to share with them the skills that are vital to their future success.

And yet, as I struggle to lead them to a better future - take my class to higher ground - there are voices in the back which give me pause. No, I don’t mean that back of my head - in no part of my head do I think that I am any of the aforementioned things - I mean literally the voices that come from the back of the classroom, taunting me, harassing me, assaulting my confidence and sense of self.

Usually I block it out, ignore it, focus on the 25 other faces in the class who want to learn. The other day it got to me - I felt myself growing upset after 3 hours of ignoring it (I mean, how much can a person really be expected to endure?!). I went to the principal and pled my case. Really it was more of a negotiation - I said that I would be willing to reenter my classroom if the source of this harassment was removed and punished. I said this firmly, with much resolve, knowing all the while that nothing would happen and that I would have to hang my head and trudge back to my room - defeated.

But alas, for once my expectations were exceeded, and the lovely girl in the back of my room was suspended, and removed immediately from my room. For the first time, I fought for something, and it was granted - and to be honest, I didn’t even have to fight all that hard.

Maybe I have money in the bank that no one told me about.

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