The year is 2020 and so much has happened. Thoughts have swirled in my head for months, and it is time to record them. It’s not that I want to lecture people, but I do have things to say. I want to record what I have learned and what I think and what I see for you. I am committing to 31 days of writing for the month of July, the month when I turn 41. I am choosing to post each day’s writing so that others know where I stand and how I am teaching my son, but these writings are really for you.
Topic 1 for July 1: Taking a Stand
My very first year of teaching began in August 2001. I was fresh out of college, did not have an education degree, and went home every night to figure out how I would teach 7th grade Social Studies the next day. I had only been on the job a few weeks when the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded. It was a Tuesday. We had school for the rest of the week, and I can’t remember which day it was, but on one of those days, I passed by a student’s desk. I have never forgotten the look on his face as he searched mine and asked, “Are we going to have World War III now?”
I think it began then… the fierce desire to protect children. I hated that this young, innocent boy felt so insecure and frightened. I had worked with advocacy groups for children in college, but I think that my true voice for children was born when I received that first group of students and lived through September 2001 with them.
That desire to protect children was tested very soon. The school where I worked conducted an HIV/AIDS education program for the students. Students who did not have signed permission forms to participate were placed in a separate room without a teacher and given an alternative assignment with Health textbooks. One female student who had done the alternative assignment came to me upset. She had been placed in the room as the only female with a group of male students, who decided to turn to the Reproductive System unit of the textbook and ask her lots of inappropriate questions.
I told her that she had every right to be upset, and that I would report the incident. Imagine my shock when she returned to me the next day to recount her meeting with a male administrator who told her “boys will be boys” and some other ridiculous comments that translated to “let’s sweep this under the rug.” Absolutely nothing was to be done to address the issue.
Even as I thought, “I’m going to lose my job,” I told her that I did not agree with the response she received. As respectfully as I could, I tried to affirm that what the boys did was wrong and should be addressed, without speaking ill of the administrator. I also made sure she had told her parents, and offered my help as a Spanish translator if her parents wanted to ask the school questions.
Once she had left my classroom, I went to the administrator and told him everything I had just told the student. I was 22 years old, lived with my parents, and had no kids yet, so I had the luxury of risking losing my job to do the right thing without fear of losing anything more than the job. To my surprise, the administrator stammered and backtracked. He then agreed to address the incident with the boys and provide the proper warnings for them to leave the girl alone.
Once action was taken, that female student was satisfied that she had been heard and respected, and felt a little more safe. The boys had received a message that it is not okay to do what they had done. As I write about this now, I have absolutely no regrets about my actions and words during that series of events. Had I lost my job or experienced retaliation in some way, I feel strongly that I still would have no regrets. When you are very clear on the details of a matter and your own beliefs about the matter, you can take a stand and walk away proud, regardless of others’ perception of you or response to you.
I hope that you have seen that I am willing to take a stand for my beliefs. It may not always be in the most eloquent manner, like that time at Myrtle Beach when I had to crawl from the third row seat of a Highlander, over your booster seat, to yell at that man that I saw him chase his girlfriend and force her into his car, and had already dialed 911. Still, I try. I see it in you too… the willingness to take a stand. It makes me proud. You and I both know you have already experienced pain as well for taking a stand in the past. I don’t think you regret it at all, though. I think we are alike in this: I would rather have peace with temporary pain than to pay an ongoing price later from regret, shame, and guilt.
Finally, on this matter, I want to tell you that I often think about those white women in North Carolina who risked their lives to teach enslaved children how to read, or hid precious souls in their homes as part of the Underground Railroad. I ask myself, “Would I have the courage to do that? Would I take my stand?” With God’s help, I hope that I would. The next thought is always, “So what is the equivalent in our day?” Whatever it is, I want to be courageous enough to say and do whatever God clearly calls me to say and do.
Publicly posting these letters to you is a part of that process for me. It’s time for me to take a stand on some issues, and make sure that you, my son, know exactly where I stand.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
I love you forever,