This first appeared as a lengthy Facebook post last year. On February 13, 2013 (02.13.2013-- good thing I'm not superstitious) I did not know I was experiencing a "last." Hopefully it turns out not be be a last, but that will be determined by whether or not HR moves me from teaching middle school to high school next year. In the meantime, here is what I posted last year at this time, when I was still uncertain if I'd ever be able to teach again at all. It includes the first hand account of one of the protest organizers. She wrote about it for a Senior writing class and shared the essay with me.
Today marks two years since I last taught at Canton High School. On that day, I staged a debate in my American Lit. class, and because I was out sick the day before, I kept Thursday's plan intact and cancelled our initial Friday plan-- going to the student produced African American History performance. When I announced this change, it greatly upset the three young African American girls in the class. In less than a 24 hour period, they organized a protest: everyone refused to speak during the debate. One of the leaders of this initiative, Victoria, wrote an essay about it and shared it with me earlier this week.
Below is a portion of that essay; "the male" is a boy who called the class protest and the African American History performance "stupid."
"Mr. Green realized what was happening as the drama continued to unfold with my friends and the male. He didn’t understand how we felt misunderstood, unimportant and didn’t wanted to fall within the stereotypes that were made for us. We were smart, a lethal weapon with our minds, just a different skin tone. It was my first time having an actual confrontation with someone and not ignoring it like I ignore the constant whispers I was used to hearing.
Mr. Green yelled for it to stop and then he quietly sobbed. We didn’t know why he was crying but those who had initiated the protest with me and I cried; we cried for our struggles. I would never forget the words Mr. Green said to us. “I’ve never been so proud of my students for sticking up for something as important as race”. He acknowledged race and he believed in giving other people the knowledge of other cultures. He was really proud of us and he stated it was one of his best moments in his teaching experience. We couldn’t go to the African American play but we used the rest of the debate time to talk about what it was like to be African American.
I was able to share my feelings and it helped me grow as a person. I was very proud of myself because I was able to make an impact on the students who did and didn’t understand our struggle."
There are myriad factors in play that will determine whether I teach high school again, many of them beyond my control. But if the events related above indeed turn out to be my teacher swan song, I'll be proud to have gone out on such a high note.