Greater Teacher

I write this in anticipation of a conversation that I am afraid to face. What’s worse than death save sitting on the edge of it, looking over the coming consequence in a laborious, heart-aching wait. I’m just being fired – not even fired, I should be able to apply for unemployment. I expect to be told that GPS will not renew my contract for next year tomorrow at 3:00. If I were the head of school and had the information she surely has, I would make the same decision. I can’t fault her. BUT, she’s decently unconscious concerning me. I guess its my fault for not claiming more space, demanding my voice be heard; I’m so deeply accommodating and kind to the point of ineffectiveness. This is my most critical judgment against myself, but one that pales in comparison to how well I have done over the past year teaching 6th grade girls Global Cultures.

What’s “Global Cultures?” you ask. It’s a combination of geography and social studies. I learned a great deal of information this year. I improved as a teacher. I didn’t cuss in the classroom. I didn’t commit sexual harassment much. (JOKE? gosh.) I really did very well. With grace, I handled the head of my department’s consistent, relentless self-propelled anxiety about me all year. With each passing critique I improved. Unfortunately, each advance seemed to codify my bosses narrative about me – each time I defied her narrative the effect seemed to only make her the more sure that she intended on replacing me. She seemed to be upset at the idea of me succeeding. Until the past month I felt pretty self-assured. Even the most ardent opposition would have to admit that my attitude was exceptional, I fit really well in the community of the school, and I continued to improve all year, the students loved me, learned, achieved, no parent complaints. What more could you ask of a first year teacher? Even when my department head started to bring in other teachers to instruct my class, I responded with professionalism. This hurt though – I was called into the office and told that it was unprofessional of me to discuss my contract with other employees. I had mentioned in a 6th grade team meeting that my contract had not been renewed – was being held – and I guess teachers started talking about it. That was a bad thing in the eyes of my bosses. They said, “SILENCE! We do not talk about contracts!” I felt like I was being responsible to my team and the truth. I did examine my motives and I can’t say that at least 15% fell under the motivation: “I hope people hear this and get pissed at my bosses for being idiots.” The other 85% was a pretty legitimate response to reality – to being me. I don’t do politics very well when I’m on the down side of power.

I’ve been on the down side of power for a while now at GPS. It sucks. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m playing the victim role again. I encountered this tide of circumstances in the past – the same fury, anger, loss, and fear; the same call for surrender. I haven’t been able to get out of my head about the whole matter. I want to scream and shout about politicized silencing, subtle to blatant discrimination based on issues of race, class, sex, culture, and especially gender. I am consistently the only male in the room. I am routinely infantilized in meetings. Can’t you see how I am a victim of magnificent proportion? Christ. Blah. Blah. Blah. In front of me sits Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and a few of bell hooks books on black feminist thought. If I can just integrate enough emancipatory discourse before I have the meeting tomorrow maybe I can convince the head of the school (a woman of color by the way) that I’m actually the liberatory scholar I think that I am and that getting rid of me would be like getting rid of one of the most radically inspired and enthusiastic teachers on the planet! Who would get rid of that teacher?! NOOOOO body. 🙂

What’s interesting is my practice surrounding these thought caverns and employment notions. I watch my thinking dance around the conversations. She’ll say… then I’ll say and keep saying…?” WHAT? I’ll just keep talking till she and everyone else at the school knows that I’m amazing. Where is surrender? When I surrender I admit that in all honesty I don’t know what will make me happy. I don’t know what will make me throw myself off a bridge or descend into a depression. I don’t know how love will offer itself or what configuration of events will yield my dream state of purpose and potential. I have not arrived. I doubt whether living as a 6th grade teacher will offer me the opportunity that I seek. God has cared for me this far, and I am not deserving of doubt. Yet, I argue with the unknown future. I am wounded. Heartbroken.

If God were to say, “What would you have me do? I’ll give you your hearts desire.” I would make a claim to enact justice. I would have that space of freedom. “Is it not your purpose to be of maximum service to the greatest number of people?” I would ask that I become the greater teacher.

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A David Whyte quote that speaks:

A David Whyte quote that speaks:
“HEARTBREAK is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control, of holding in our affections those who inevitably move beyond our line of sight. Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is our indication of sincerity: in a love relationship, in a work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is just as much an essence and emblem of care as the spiritual athlete’s quick but abstract ability to let go. Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.
“Heartbreak is inescapable; yet we use the word as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream, a child lost before their time. Heartbreak, we hope, is something we hope we can avoid; something to guard against, a chasm to be carefully looked for and then walked around; the hope is to find a way to place our feet where the elemental forces of life will keep us in the manner to which we want to be accustomed and which will also keep us from the losses that all other human beings have experienced without exception since the beginning of conscious time. But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way…”