Monday, November 16, 2009

Exile and Saints

    I'm no angel, but you know I'll treat you right
      -Otis Clay

My life was in the shitter a year ago, prompting me to take this blog offline abrubptly, as well as nearly all of the rest of my internet presence. I made the mistake of leaving a myspace page up that I'd made specifically to flirt with a girl. As flirting goes, it was really pretty tame, and there is much racier stuff in some Disney movies and most sitcoms. I also thought it was set to be private, but it wasn't.

Regardless, it was a dumbshit thing to do. Parents expect their teachers to be saints, regardless of the fact that the kids don't relate to saints, regardless of how the parents themselves act. I knew this intellectually, though I hadn't internalized it.

I ain't no saint. Those that know me can attest to that, but I think those that know me would also say that I'm one of the good ones. Unfortunately, they couldn't be in the room to defend me when my principal had to tell me about some pretty serious implications made by some students and parents.

I won't go into any of the details. It's too frustrating and painful, and wouldn't do anyone any good, but think of all the movies you've seen where a student or underling decides to make life hell for someone else to draw attention away from their own shortcomings. That was my life last year. By the end of the year I overheard students say things like "If you don't like your grade, just go complain to [the house leader] and he'll make Mr. Gleason change it."

Let me tell you, it sucks. I spent most of the school year watching my back, wondering what else a student would exaggerate to get me in trouble, knowing that there were a handful of kids who were waiting for any misstep to use against me, knowing that not only was I not doing anything wrong, but that I was doing a whole lot of things right that people weren't seeing. Part of what makes me an effective teacher is that I'm myself around the kids and don't hide the fact that I'm a little rough around the edges sometimes.

I'm at peace with it now, more or less, but it made me awfully gun shy for a long time. It was as if I'd been forced into exile from my self, and I'm not half the teacher I can be when I feel like I have to be perfect, like I can't be myself. I could have done a lot more for some of those kids if I hadn't felt like I was always about to get in trouble for something. I still don't even like driving through that town, and feel like someone is going to report me for going 37 in a 35.

That feeling is starting to fade, and I'm starting to feel like I can trust kids again. I also feel like, with the sole exception of one high school I like working at, I don't want to teach in affluent suburbs anymore. The suburbs just don't make any sense to me. I don't understand the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-and-keeping-kids-so-busy-that-they-don't-have-time-to-be-kids-and-whitewashing-everything-and-everyone-until-everything-seems-perfect-artificial-rat-race. I like it where the kids (and the adults) are sometimes a little rough around the edges. I like it where people know what it's like to not have everything you need, much less everything you want.

I'm a big fan of imperfection.

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