Delayed Reaction

I don’t waste energy pretending to be someone I’m not at work.  I know a lot of people who make very clear distinctions between their personal selves and their professional selves, but I am in the fortunate position of not feeling compelled to do that and, as a result, I don’t.  I’m actually proud to be a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person; my students would recognize me out in public because I’m exactly the same person at work as I am at home.  It just so happens that this person identifies as a strongly liberal, enthusiastically progressive rational Humanist.

Part of how I express myself in my professional life is through words (no, really, Chili?!).  I have a plethora of bumper stickers and posters and hangings and magnets and quotables stuck on vertical surfaces all over my room, and most of them express decidedly progressive, liberal values.  Clearly, the students see (and appreciate) this, because not long after the school year started, they began coming in with things to add to my collection.

Around the second or third week of school, a student printed out this picture and gave it to me.  I taped it among a bunch of other things in what I thought was a relatively non-prominent section of a filing cabinet.

I was fully expecting to have to take it down in short order.  The image is a little pushy for the classroom, even for me, and even if the kids didn’t object, it is a fact that the school’s board meets in my room.   I know for sure that board members often peruse my collection of sayings while they’re milling about drinking coffee and eating pastry while waiting for their meetings to begin; I was certain one of them would express concern or raise an objection or ask my boss to talk to me about it.

September… October (when a student came back from the Rally for Sanity with the Less Condos / More Condoms sticker for me)… November… December… January… February… March… April… nothing.  No one mentioned it, no one even brought it up.

Yesterday – YESTERDAY – I get a message from my boss asking me to take it down.  Someone complained (I have no idea who – and, honestly, I don’t want to know – but I suspect it’s one of the same kids who’s been complaining that we’re not validating his or her Christian beliefs) and, as a consequence, I’ve been told to take it down because we can’t be “advertising” sex.

My boss, to her credit, made it clear that she has no issue with the image.  She’s responding to pressure from outside the school, and it’s just not a fight worth having.

I have chosen not to make a stink about this, but it is a very near thing.  I think, if I hadn’t just spent the last month raging and despairing about the state of our culture, I would likely have the energy to protest.  I’m just tired.  I’m tired of people being too closed-minded to understand that the KIDS brought this in, that this is an image that expresses positive ideals.  They would understand that this isn’t about sex; it doesn’t represent an advertisement for sex but rather is a First Amendment right to dissent, and that the message the image is sending is that while the closed-minded and ugly have a right to free speech, so does everyone else.  I would fight for this if I thought it wouldn’t give my boss any more stress than she’s already getting from the person/people complaining about it.  I WILL fight for this if a student notices it’s gone and raises questions.  As it is, I’ve transferred the image to the other side of the cabinet where I can see it, and where students who come to conference with me will see it.  I like the positive message it gives (notice who’s smiling in the picture?), and I want the kids to know that I support fully their right to dissent, but not to silence those who have something to say.



Filed under Civics and Citizenship, critical thinking, debate and persuasion, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, Gay/Straight Alliance, General Griping, GLBTQ issues, Learning, out in the real world, parental units, really?!, rhetoric, self-analysis, Student Activism, student chutzpah, You're kidding...right?

10 responses to “Delayed Reaction

  1. Elaina

    Psht! That is for whoever instigated the (re)moval – 🙂 – of the picture. ((Hug)) and “yay!” That is for you and your tiredness, and for repositioning (rather than completely removing) the picture so it can still make a positive statement. You rock!! xo

  2. Clearly, someone’s got something stuck in their gullet about the environment in my classroom. I have a sneaking suspicion that a couple of our students will be transferring to the Christian Academy next year; we simply don’t validate their beliefs sufficiently for them.

    Oh, and not for nothing, but I miss you something awful.

    • Elaina

      Heh! Ya think? 😉 “Que sera, sera.” Clearly if that picture was offensive to them, yours is not the place for them.
      I miss you something awful, as well. xoxo

  3. M

    I also have a board in my classroom with about 15 or so quotable cards. I’m obsessed with other people’s words.

    I can guarantee you if I put any of those stickers up, my administration would hand me my ass and a pink slip. I make comments in class all the time about how much I love the gays, but I know that it rubs some students the wrong way.

    • M, I understand, on a practically cellular level, that I work in an ASTOUNDINGLY open place. I think that actually makes it harder when some of that openness is restricted.

      I wouldn’t last two weeks in a traditional school.

  4. s parker

    hang in there

  5. Mrs. Chili–
    As a former English teacher turned youth/young adult pastor, let me first just say, SOME Christians would want you to remove the picture. Others celebrate that there are adults in the world that help young people both claim who they are and laugh at the absurdity of the world (I’d like to think that I’m the latter and fit into your liberal/progressive category)
    And more than that I want to say thanks. Thanks for being you, unabashedly, apologetically you.

  6. mmalick, THANK you! I have to admit to being a little hesitant to putting up blog posts about this stuff because it seems that I get a lot more people in the first category (the SOME Christians) responding here. I’ve been desperate for the more moderate Christians to participate in my conversations (both here and in real life).

    I have a student who identifies as an evangelical Christian. I’ve watched him work his way through a lot of really complex thinking that has challenged his beliefs about a LOT of things, and we’ve been talking about how it seems that people like him (those Christians who are willing to think in ways that may challenge what they believe) get a bad rap from the more vocal, what we call “Crazy Christians.” Those with more centrist, reasonable voices need to speak up more – the crazies are monopolizing the conversation – and coloring the view of what it means to be Christian.

  7. I understand your hesitancy. I have spent a good bit of my life being a “cloest Christian” for many of the reasons you hesitate to post things. When I first started seminary, I found myself trying to hide or disguise what I was studying because of people’s assumptions and reactions. And I knew I didn’t think of myself as some “holy” enough to every pursue ministry…me?!? However, now I think it’s important to come out as a Christian. Not only do I disagree with many of the stances I hear the media/moral majority saying are Christianity, I happen to believe many of those statements do not go along with what Scripture teaches, Jesus says, or the history of the Church reveals.

    And as for questioning and doubt, well I think that’s what people of faith are called to do. The Bible’s certainly filled with folks who question as is the history of Christianity. I just happen to think we “progressive mainliners” kept silent about our own thoughts, feelings and struggles. We also don’t let people know that our support over LGBT rights, our frustration with military spending, and our concern about new legislation that continues to dismantle the middle class happen to come from our faith belief.

    Sorry for rambling and thanks for sharing. And thanks for supporting your student. I happen to know a number of young people who have the same struggles.

  8. I, too, work in one of those districts where that type of photo garner a complaint immediately. But, not from administration initially, it would come from the students. My district is overwhelmingly conservative (politically, I think, more so than religiously) and our students have been given the idea that they never have to be exposed to an idea they don’t agree with. So, I have to stay away from all ideas controversial, which makes me believe that I’m only doing half of my job.

    Still, students are aware of my personal philosophies, and those who lean that way will seek me out after school or hang out in my room between classes. I feel a bit of success in providing that haven. I really would like nothing better than to be able to challenge the ignorance in my community. But, parents here have made it clear they are fine with it.

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