My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


I Feel the Shame

As many of you know, I am a teacher by trade. When I was 15, I had several influential teachers who opened the world up to me in ways that most of us wait for our whole lives. In that, I saw an opportunity to change the world for the better; on top of that, teaching music gave me the opportunity to be immersed in something I enjoy very profoundly.

I have often commented that I love teaching. It's really the best job in the world, confined within a really stupid profession. If I could go to work each day and deal with the students in front of me--no unions, no principals, no politics--I would be thrilled to show up for work each day.

Problem is, there's all thos other things we have to deal with. Stories like this just reinforce my frustrations. For those of you who missed it, Shiba Pillai-Diaz, a middle school teacher in New Jersey, hung a picture of the President and First Lady on a bulletin board in her classroom, as part of a montage of images of American heritage--the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, etc. When three parents confronted her at Back to School night, insisting that she put up a photo of John Kerry as well, she opted to remove the bulletin board entirely. At which point her Principal, Jim Wurfel, asked for her keys and told her to leave the building, citing her "inflammatory politics."

This drives me nuts. I know for a fact that a great many more teachers out there are generally conservative in their politics--mostly at the older grades, and often in positions of influence like coaches. But between the unions and the prevailing ethic that dictates a dependence on government, it's really hard to live in the education world and be a conservative. And, frankly, I consider myself pretty damn moderate!

It bothers me that I worry about going to work with a Bush/Cheney sticker on my car. The advocate in me says that you have do it to open up the dialogue and have an opportunity to influence people; the realist in me says that, in my particular job, which requires that other teachers be willing to cooperate with me on scheduling and sharing kids, if some teachers get worked up about my politics, my program--my chance to work with students--goes away. All things considered, if I'm not working, my chance to influence is zero.

Ocassionally it bothers me enough that I think I have to get out of this profession. Or if there were another way to work with students that didn't carry with it all the political baggage.. . Private schools pay poorly, charter schools have their own set of political problems. . .

Sorry to vent on you--all three of you. Suffice to say that not all teachers fit the stereotype, and that those of us who don't are at least as frustrated as the general public.

I also know that in the teaching profession are the most intelligent, self-sacrificing, caring group of people I have ever come across--and yes, there are many boobs. I daresay, proportionally, no more than in any other profession. It saddens me that the great and important work so many of my colleagues and friends do gets obscured by the utter stupidity of those who make the evening news.

Even sadder, I'm not sure there's any way to recover the profession.

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