A Teaching Career
I’m a C-SPAN2 Book discussion from last September on Banned Books.
As I have written several blogs about my sudden firing from the Willamette Leadership Academy almost five years ago, I have to come up with my own reasons as to why a former teacher of the year and one of the hardest workers wasn’t going to have my contract renewed. It was sudden in my mind, but I’m thinking that the signs were there, but I failed to see them. I often prefer my own World and ignore reality. If I think someone doesn’t like me or has a problem with me, I tend to ignore this and pretend these feelings don’t exist.
But, as I listen to the panel of authors who discuss how their books have been challenged and banned in schools, I start to think about my last Film as Literature course. Color Purple is one of my favorite books. Not only is it a great book, but the movie is just as outstanding, but the book and the movie are night and day.
My class was upperclass students, Juniors and Seniors, in high school. I asked for a class set, which was approved. I got a really good deal at Smith Family Bookstore for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I was excited and had worked so hard on pulling together lesson plans.
Somehow the School Board President, a very conservative Christian, got wind of my kids reading Alice Walker’s book. All she had to do was read the first page of the novel to the Colonel, and all hands on board distress signal was given. By the time it subject was brought to the board’s attention and they declared this book not worthy for this Public, but Charter school, we were just finishing up with the book. I was told I could never teacher that book again.
I was angry. In the five years that I had taught at WLA, the only perk, aside from the free uniform and cheap haircuts, I had one hundred percent control of what I taught. Now that a red flag was raised on my choice of literature, I was told that from now on, I would have to ask the board’s permission.
I did not ask permission for the next book my kids were reading, but again they had already bought Fahrenheit 451, the banned book about burning books. I was pissed that I was getting censured especially when the middle schoolers during this same time were reading Hunger Games. It’s okay for young kids to read about kids killing kids, but Heaven forbid that an older student read about incest and coping with the situation.
I was extremely vocal about my frustration and probably vented a lot on Facebook. That is, after all, the main reason I was fired.
The irony about my losing my job when I lost it was I had been struggling with depression and was just getting a handle on the problem. As a result, I was probably the realest and truest with the students than ever before. I stopped hiding the fact that I was gay, but unless you are totally blind, it’s really hard to not make this guess. I was spending more time with the kids than grading I was refusing to take on all the extraneous meetings and fundraising that was eating up a lot of my personal time. I had spoiled the school by working eighty hours a week, but I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. The Friday evening after school benefit, after so many hours, or the all day Saturday to supervise cadets at a football game only added to my eighty hours. No, I won’t put together the school newsletter anymore.
It was my last year that I volunteered to run a credit recovery program that was a huge success and also time-consuming, but since kids were getting something out to it, It was worth it. I even took on the role of doing all class scheduling for all the high school kids that involved requesting and studying transcripts. Still time consuming, but also important to the student. We were such a small staff that we all had to pitch in. The second in-charge teacher, Major Cheney, had the task of mapping out all of the FTX schedules on top of her course load.
I guess my last blog in venting about WLA wasn’t my last. Maybe this one will be. Maybe. It is a very tender spot in my heart.