I always have. Loved my students, I mean. N.B.: it’s not that unusual. It’s what teachers do. Daily. They enter their classes full of the girl who wasn’t picked for play yesterday, and the boy whose dad beat the tar out of him last night, and the girl whose brother died five years ago and who still grieves and the boy who wonders how he never noticed his brother was gay, and the girl whose mother tells her daily what a loser she is. Or the child whose parents are gone, one in prison, one just gone. Now s/he lives with an exhausted grandmother. Each of these needy, broken children is in multiple classes. And almost certainly, s/he has a teacher who LOVES. Classes are brimming with these students, and underpaid, overworked teachers who♥️♥️♥️.
It’s what they do. Each day. Exhausted as they are, every teacher I know loves. Daily. Hourly. Loves the slightly crazy, very needy girl in the front row who is a not-quite-recovering cutter. Loves the very needy boy in the back who wonders if he will ever be enough. And those who teach little bitties? They wipe noses, blot tears, kiss scrapes, tousle heads, reassure, listen listen listen. And LOVE.
It’s the job. And it’s HARD. But it’s also what makes teaching the calling it is for most of us. It’s at the heart of that calling, and why it’s soooo hard to evaluate — this recognition of the love at the heart of each teacher. It’s why teachers cover their children’s bodies w/ their own in a shooting (Sandy Hook) or a tornado (Moore, OK). It’s why they put up with the scorn of other professionals, the relentless paperwork, and the crappy pay. L-O-V-E.
I think of teaching — the decades I did it, at least — as almost a Buddhist practice, or a Christian offer of blessing. A Jewish mitzvah, a gift of compassionate love, sometimes even tough love. And yes: teaching is (obviously) also a means of helping students — of all ages — learn. But as I used to tell my own students, sometimes what you are learning isn’t the book, or even the content. It’s not how to write a research paper, but how to figure out a way to access the pain that wells up when you consider the things you care about, & might want to write about. For a Russian orphan, it may be foreign adoption. For the recovering cutter, it may be wrist-cutting syndrome. For the boy who is coming to terms w/his brother’s homosexuality, it may be how family can support gays.
A good teacher listens, and is, as Frost said, a gentle prod forward, along the path of self-knowledge & learning. Not ‘quail shot’! And even the teachers who may not be Pulitzer winners, or brilliant physicists, or theoretical research chemists? They know more than most folks ever will about how to love. And how it is love — old-fashioned love — that opens students minds. The way to the mind, good teachers know, is through the heart. A good teacher is, as Frost also notes, not simply a ‘teachers,’ but an ‘awakener.’ Smart man, that Frost. But then, he knew much about love.
And teachers deserve a LOT of ours.
I’m of a generation that has seen much ‘owning’ of formerly negative names. My sons’ generation — those unfairly bashed MIllenials — used to say, that’s so gay. Not at our house, though. Now? It’s gay pride. And ‘queer’ used to be another homophobic slur. Now we have entire departments of queer studies at universities across the globe.
Same w/the motivation behind the current administration’s supporters trying to ‘own’ the term ‘deplorables.’ But you know what? It’s not the same thing. Not by a verrry long shot. To be gay, or queer, or is a descriptor. The judgment is attached by the insulter, not explicit in the word itself.
But deplorable is an intrinsically, BY DEFINITION, negative label. There can be nothing good inherent in the term. Sure, you can wear it as a badge of honour, as you can white privilege (yes, there are such folks). So let’s talk about what I mean when I say the current administration is deplorable.
We have a candidate for Secretary of Commerce who hired an undocumented immigrant for 7 years, then fired her when he was tapped for the position. In other words? We may well have a SoC who KNOWINGLY broke the law. And doesn’t care who knows it, as long as he gets his position.
We have a candidate for Secretary of Education who hates public education. Did you really hear that? The backbone of American democracy is public education. And she not only doesn’t support it, she doesn’t think disabled students are entitled to it, if it’s inconvenient for the school/state/whatever. REALLY? Either that, or (worse in my horrified opinion) she doesn’t even understand what the federal law says. She also doesn’t think all federal laws should be enforced…. Wow.
We have a head of the Environmental Protection Agency candidate who has sued it multiple times, as Attorney General for poor benighted Oklahoma. This one I know well. He’s not only not particularly smart, he HATES public lands, and wants to dismantle all federal protections. Talk about fox and henhouse: Scott Pruitt is about as deplorable as a non-criminal gets.
Secretary of HUD? Ben Carson, whose only qualification for the position seems to be he’s black & lived in an urban neighbourhood?? Attorney General? Jeff Sessions, whose longstanding racism & lack of support for women in domestic abuse situations is legendary.
The list is long. It doesn’t matter what I think of the President Elect (not much). The proof of his active dislike for American government is in his selection of appointees. What is even more deplorable, however, is that many of these men & women have, at the very least, significant conflicts of interest (as does the POE, just in case no one’s told you).
So yes, I think that’s all deplorable. It makes me angry at the same time it breaks my heart, to see this country so happy to disenfranchise its citizens, sell out our public lands, give free license to polluters, and all the rest of the varied anti-government agendas of these deplorable ersatz leaders. As for you wearing a Tshirt that says you’re proud to be part of this trainwreck? I don’t think that’s deplorable. I think it’s just incredibly sad. Right now, I’m spinning between incendiary anger (bad for a Buddhist!) and heartbreak. Trying to draw on lessons of compassion — even wrathful compassion! — that will get me through this dark dark period. I won’t be watching the inauguration.
I recently read a piece on what white/cisgendered allies do wrong. And one is overposting trauma. I’m certainly guilty of this, as I KNOW many of my Okie friends, colleagues, and yes — even family ???? — don’t have a clue how prevalent the injustice, fear, and murder are. It’s such a hard line, and I know that most of my ‘call’ is to listen, to work for social justice. To keep writing about other ways to engage.
So I’m — once again — treading that fine line of a middle path (waaaay too narrow for my unsteady bumbling), trying to cause no more pain, while still educating the ignorant. And please note: ‘ignorant’ here is NOT perjorative. So many of my very well-educated peers really have NO idea — not even one cultivated from books, conversation, and study, instead of experience — what it’s like to live black, brown, gay, trans…in today’s American life.
What to do. I watch my friends of colour, of course. But as I once told my son: you don’t get to talk like your black best friend. You’re NOT black. He can say things you cannot. Me too. I have to be beyond sensitive — especially during this time of raw emotions and battered hearts.
To be an ally means to share common goals. In this case? Social justice. But also grieving. Respecting that the deaths in Dallas — all of them — are deeply saddening. A young black veteran (suffering from PTSD after his two tours, possibly?) drew fire on 5 men doing their job: protecting the freedom of assembly.
But every one of us — black American and white ally alike — understands that there is more to Dallas than 6 deaths. There’s the snarled tangle of race relations in America, the ongoing slaughter of unarmed black Americans by police, the backlash of other police, and their supporters.
On a friend’s FB thread, the discussion was about how two deputies in a small town were harrassed in a restaurant. And the focus was on how little police make. Which in my city, at least, is not true. When I pointed this out, it was pointed out to me that I had MISSED the point: police are being killed by murderers. Yes. And it’s horrible. But why do white Americans seem unable to understand the other elements of this very complicated equation? Dallas is not as simple as black shooter/ white police. It’s also white police/ unarmed black woman & child & mentally handicapped man and…
It’s just a suck time right now. One piece of advice that has helped: the meme said — It’s always happened. We’re just taking off blindfolds. Hold tight to each other, and keep on. In my case, it’s a kind of bumbling, uncertain keeping on. But I swear to you — it’s fueled by genuine anger, hunger for justice, and compassion for all who grieve. That’s the real heart of being an ally.
If you have great ways to deal with the challenges facing all of us, share? Please?