My First First Day

A little over 6 years ago I returned home after spending 2 of my first 3 years after college abroad. I had a bed in my parents house, a part-time job coaching cross country and a goal to start graduate school to become a teacher.

This past Wednesday, after three years in six school districts, I started my first day of school in my own classroom.

I had not expected it to take this long but it made it no less exciting. I still remember my first semester of education classes, reading theory for the first time and realizing I had no idea (yet) of my own opinion on how best to educate young people. I remember my first attempts at interviewing for student teaching positions, failing miserably, and ultimately succeeding in a different placement. I remember not getting a job in my first summer after graduation until a week before school started… as a paraprofessianal. I remember 4 months later getting a position teaching over an hour away. I remember getting a teacher assistant job the following fall after my first school had to cut positions. I remember getting another mid-year position in one of the most prestigious schools districts in Massachusetts. And I certainly remember the day that spring when my principal said that enrollment was down, another teacher wanted my position and I would not be asked back for the following school year.

I remember improving my interview skills with practice and 10+ interviews in August 2015 alone. I remember throwing up a hail mary email with only my resume to a  school district and forgetting about it. I remember being called into an interview the day before school started and when I had left the building an hour or so later I had a long term substitute position offer. I remember doing my paper work on the first day of school. And I remember teaching my first day of classes on the second day of school a year ago.

Given my experience it might seem that this week was less then monumental. After all this is the start of my fourth year in a classroom. But it’s hard to express how my previous experiences, while full classroom roles, have really been teaching with a hand behind my back. I have been creating lessons a few days ahead of time with students who, while amazing, never really forgot I was a “substitute.”

Wednesday was different. I had my own room that I had time to set up the way I wanted. I was able to put up posters, set up stations, and envision my class structure in a way that was previously not possible. In a few short days I have created a classroom environment that (I hope) addresses almost all the classroom management issues I have had in my career.

Most importantly I am in a place where, from the start, I feel like I belong. That feeling where I have an office mailbox, my name is on the teacher voicemail list, and students do not know me as anyone other than their teacher. After six years of working toward what I experienced this week, that feeling is priceless.

My first first day was exhilarating. Here’s to many more.

 

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A Disconnect

Anyone on Facebook last week surely noticed as profile pictures changed at a rapid rate to the red-tinged logo of the Human Rights Campaign. I was actually confused at first thinking that perhaps this was an anti-gay marriage move simply by virtue of the color motif. In fact it was in support of gay marriage, provoked by the Supreme Court hearing arguments on two cases related to the issue. This phenomenon got me thinking (and reading) about many of the issues surrounding this subject. I find one argument put forth by anti-gay marriage folks to be particularly striking as a teacher and a Christian and this is what I address here.

The argument relates to how the legalization of gay marriage will effect education. Conservative people (mostly Christians with a background similar to my own) are recognizing how the existence of gay people is changing and will continue to change how homosexuality is addressed and considered in the classroom. The clearest word I can use to describe their worries is “indoctrination.” That is, children will suffer indoctrination at ever younger ages about sexuality and its proper role in society. Homosexuality will be (and now is in many places) normalized and along with it, gay marriage.

This concern highlights a massive disconnect that many conservative people and Christians are facing with the rest of society. What they see as indoctrination is seen as fairness and justice to an ever growing majority of society. If Conservatives and Christians do not figure out how to properly process this disconnect quickly I see very little good coming from it.

Homosexuality needs to be taught and accepted in schools not to indoctrinate children but because it exists at the very core of many of the children that in only a few short months I will be professionally responsible to teach. Some students are gay. Some students have same-sex parents. Am I supposed to ignore, separate or disparage their existence in the classroom because other students (or their parents) find them to be morally offensive? It would be unethical, unjust and (for me personally) unconscionable to do so. For good measure it would be unconstitutional and illegal as well.

This ultimately is not a question about the Bible, or sex, or even morality. It is about what is right and just. It pains me to say it but the conservative Christian who cries “indoctrination!” is on the wrong side of this argument. Christian leaders and pastors need to take a step back and seriously consider these issues again before spouting off ever more violently incorrect and hurtful rhetoric.

Some might read this and ask loudly, “But what about OUR children?” All I can say to that is, “Indeed, what about them?”