So, I don’t remember how much, if anything, I’ve told you all here beyond this entry, so if I’m repeating myself, I apologize.
I had another visit to Dr. Wong’s private school (let’s call the place Classical Private School, or CPS for short) last Wednesday. I arrived in time to meet the social studies teacher and sit in on the opening rituals (the Pledge of Allegiance, the recitation of their school’s creed (which ends in “so help me, God”), and a moment of silence/prayer), and then participated in the first class of the day, which was a lecture in a Western Civilizations class (they’d just covered the Black Plague and were heading into the Italian Renaissance). I didn’t ask specifically, but I think that all the students in the school (there are currently 17) were attending the class, and all of them were engaged, even the moderate-to-severe ADD student in the front row.
After the class, I had a chance to talk to a student to learn about what her typical day is like, then Dr. Wong took me into the lobby to meet and chat with Dean Michaels, who’s in charge of professional development at the school. We had a long and really engaging discussion, the three of us, and we covered a lot of ground in terms of what the ladies think the school is lacking (and what my skills can remedy), what the vision and objective of the school is, and how important it is for them to not just be teachers, but to be models for balanced citizenship.
It was right about this time that Dr. Wong looked at me with a bit of concern in her expression and said, “I sense some hesitation from you, Chili. Is there anything wrong?”
Well, no; not WRONG, exactly, but she wasn’t mistaking some trepidation on my part.
I decided to ease into it with my logistical concerns. Were I to come on board, I’d be the only staff living farther than about 15 or 20 minutes away (it’s a good 50-55 minutes from Chez Chili to CPS on a dry day with the wind at my back). Despite our being in the same state, we inhabit very different climate zones, and while they may only get a dusting of snow in the city, I might be buried under 7 inches and not be able to get to work, and we’d need to have a contingency plan for the once or twice a year that’s likely to happen. I also wanted to be clear that I’d need to have my workday shifted toward the morning (school runs from 8:50 to 5:30). I can be the first person in the building at 7:30 if they want me there, but I’d like to leave no later than 2:30 every day. Neither of these things seemed to be an issue for Dr. Wong, so I moved on to what was really worrying me.
You see, I’m a liberal. There, I said it. I know; shocking, right? Well, the entire construct of CPS is very, very conservative, and I knew, going in, that I was going to have to “come out” to Dr. Wong in a way that made clear my values and priorities, and that sooner was much better than later.
I chose to bring my sticker-covered water bottle with me that day instead of opting for the unadorned black one because I felt that leaving my “regular” bottle at home was somehow hiding something.
I told the ladies that, were I to come to work for the school, I would literally be the only religiously unaffiliated (I believe I used the term “enthusiastically unaffiliated”) member of the community.
The issue of abortion came up when Dr. Wong told us that she was still getting her deceased mother’s mail, and that a solicitation for donations to Planned Parenthood came to the house the other day. Dr. Wong admitted that she used to be pro-choice, but changed her mind after converting to Catholicism. Dean Michaels said she grew up Catholic (and anti-abortion), and it wasn’t until she became pregnant herself that she realized what an awesome responsibility a child was and changed her position to become pro-choice. I told the ladies that I steadfastly believe that every human being needs to have full sovereignty over their bodies, and that anything that infringes on that turns them into a slave.
I let the ladies know that being an LGBTQ ally is an integral part of my identity.
I was pretty sure that that was going to be that, but they surprised me. By the end of the conversation, both women seemed even more excited about the possibility of my coming on board. Dr. Wong acknowledged that there would likely be parental drama, but that she was fully capable of handling it (she told me a story about an encounter she had recently with an evangelical mother who objected to the fact that Dr. Wong was talking to students about creation stories, and a student went home to report that Dr. Wong said that Adam and Eve is a “made up story” and, well, hilarity ensued). Both women were enthusiastic about the idea that I would bring a new perspective to the party; Dean Michaels said “if we’re going to walk our walk – really walk our walk – we need to be open to a diversity of voices.”
Well, then, I’m your girl!
For the rest of the afternoon, I was introduced as “Mrs. Chili… she’s a liberal” to staff and students, which was a little weird but reinforced the idea that Dr. Wong was willing to accept – and kind of embrace – the fact of my philosophical position. I have been invited back next Friday to lead the school in a writing workshop; they want to see me in front of a classroom and introduce me to the students.
As I left the school, Dr. Wong surprised me by giving me a hug to say goodbye (she didn’t strike me as a hugger). It was a lovely gesture that made me feel I didn’t blow a hole in my candidacy by coming out as a lefty liberal.
I’m pretty sure I’ll have a job there next year if I want it.