So this weekend, I got official confirmation about my student teaching placement for the Spring of 2011, and I got to talk to my cooperating teacher on the phone. I am super excited about this all in terms of my career, don't get me wrong, but the issues it's bringing up in terms of what I intend to do with my identity as an adult are not so welcome.
The question "Tell me about yourself!" from future colleagues is so loaded from my perspective. Let's see, what's the biggest event in my life recently? Oh yeah, got engaged to my girlfriend. Nope. Not mentioning that one.
I can survive deep in the closet for a semester of student teaching. In my career, though, I don't know if I can live with the constant deception. My fiancee has told me, when I discussed my concerns, that she would be extremely distressed to always be treated like a dirty secret (and she deserves so much more than that.) I want to have friends in my career. I want to not be in constant tension about what I say about very central parts of my life.
All that is uncomfortable, stressful, unhappy, etc. But then I start thinking, we want kids in the future. We want to have each of us carry at least one kid, and then have the other do a second-parent adoption. So then our kid walks into the school district where I teach- and if by some miracle I've survived this long in the closet, there is no way our kid can be legally ours and have me stay in the closet. (This is putting aside the entire part of the discussion where I don't want our kids growing up thinking that their parents are doing something "wrong" that they have to hide.)
So, like a lonely idiot, I googled "lesbian teacher."
The first seven results were along the lines of "watch lesbian teacher kiss her student" crap that makes this all so hard in the first place.
But then I got to the eighth result, and I had to smile, because it was a news story about how some first-graders in San Fransico in 2008 went to their lesbian teacher's wedding and showered her with rose petals. And I felt just a little bit better.
Does anyone here have experience to share or resources they could point me towards in figuring out how to navigate this?
For everyone, thanks for listening to the rant :-P
-------------------- "Cut her down." "She is a witch!" "But she's our witch. Cut her down." Posts: 174 | From: Indiana, USA | Registered: Jun 2006
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Hey there! I can only come by for a second but you CAN be out and a teacher: perhaps you feel you can't (or feel you can't) in your current situation but you two can find a school/place where you can be out. For starters, I recommend this book One Teacher in Ten. I also see a LJ community for LGBT teachers (I can't vouch for it but it looks like it could be a good resource.) There's hope, I swear! What about just coming out to your cooperating teacher if you feel it's the right thing? Or asking about school support for LGBT students?
I checked the 1994 edition of One Teacher in Ten out of our school library today, and I've been reading it inbetween classes. It's helping ^.^
I don't think I need to come out to my cooperating teacher. I'll play it by ear once I meet her in person, but staying quiet for one semester won't kill me. I just won't be able to bury myself in the closet for my whole career. I read some of these stories about people who waited for a decade or more, and I wonder, how did you do it?
I think half of my angst is that I'm starting to realize 1) how much I love the state I grew up and am still living in and would want to live here for the rest of my life, and 2) how not lesbian-with-wife-and-kids-friendly most of the state will be.
I would ask about school support for LGBT students, but I have never heard of any kind of system in place in an elementary school (which is where I'm going.) Out of curiosity, do such things exist? It would seem a bit premature- I didn't figure it out until I was 17. Then again, one of my best friends realized he was gay when he was 6.
My sister lives in Indiana, not_a_hobgoblin. And my mother's family emigrated there, too. So, I hear you.
But I also think it seems like it's been getting a lot better, and there are also more federal protections and supports than there used to be for GLBT teachers.
I've talked about this here before elsewhere, but when I was teaching in-classroom at an elementary school, in the early 90's, I had a pretty heinous experience when it came to my orientation and how my co-teacher treated it. However, that wasn't how it went with the whole school, and things have changed enough overall that now, if another teacher in pretty much any distract said what he had said to me, especially in front of kids, chances are good he would have been at the very least given a warning. Really, I think things have gotten a lot better.
I know that doesn't make it any less scary. But I'd also try not to cross too many bridges -- or agonize about crossing them -- until you get there. In other words, see how things go first. You and your girlfriend probably aren't going to be trying to adopt kids ASAP, so I don't think you really need to worry about that now.
It may be when you do get there that the environment isn't so great, and it may be you two decide a move to a more queer-friendly state or area is what you want. But you're not there yet, you know?
I'm still a teacher now, even though this and my outreach settings are my classroom, so for all intents and purposes I've been teaching and out for around 20 years. And for the most part, even quite some time ago, it's been okay. For sure, I have to be resilient sometimes (I mean, literally, I have read neocons in books or articles writing about how "that dyke" Heather Corinna shouldn't be teaching young people), but I already had those skills just by coming of age queer and other challenges in my life. I also like to remind myself that at times I have to advocate for myself in this regard, there's an extra positive which is that I'm also advocating for the rest of us, which helps.
-------------------- Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen About Me • Get our book! Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead Posts: 67213 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000
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I'm back with a few more thoughts. I hope you can get in touch with fellow LGBT teachers locally for some in-person insight. Something that came to mind also was joining the teachers' union/teaching assocation: dues aren't cheap but you can know that they'll be there with legal support to back you up at work. Here's even an article from the NEA magazine called The Power of One.
I understand where you're coming from on wanting to stay where you're from: I'm from the liberal-leaning l part of a state with a conservative reputation and it's where I want to be. I find it frustrating when some fellow progressive-minded people find it surprising or weird that I stay where I'm from but not everyone wants to more to SF (and teach classes of 40?) and it's not like metropolitan areas are the only places of tolerance and acceptance! I chose to be in a more urban district but you might be surprised to find that some rural districts may be more open-minded than you'd think (and vice versa.) For example, my brother-in-law is from another country and not a native English speaker and found it was actually the rural districts who treated him better than the more prominent districts who pretty much blew him off (so much for being progressive, right?) The smaller places knew they had fewer applications and couldn't pay as well as bigger places but wanted someone who would be there for the kids and understood the adversity many of them were facing. Likewise, there are allies all over: despite the stereotypes, you have LGBT people who are cosmopolitan hipsters (ha, this is a silly word) just as you have LGBT people who like NASCAR and hunting. You may yourself with a student whose parents are you CONVINCED would be disapproving only to have it turn out the student's favorite aunt has a female partner.
I think teaching tolerance is just *so* important in elementary school: maybe it's not in the form of a GSA but in giving models of families that are beyond traditional forms (ahem, stereotypes.) You can look for a school that celebrates diversity in various forms. I have to say that, as a teacher, you also have a LOT of power: I had always seen power as something negative, like something political leaders abuse, but it can also be something very cool when applied towards creating a safe, nurturing environment. I also attended two elementary schools: they were in the same large district but were worlds apart. The one I loved was a public magnet school with a large number of students with immigrant background, on free/reduced lunch, and many queer teachers (really!)
Of course, these are ideal situations: there's good and there's bad all over, it's just figuring it out. For me, I tend to keep my personal life private unless people are friends (or it's Scarleteen ); my colleagues are so supportive and great but, for all the things we talked about, I didn't tell people I had a boyfriend until months later. I had plenty of friends visit and what not, but I didn't feel the need to say anything either way. As a student-teacher, you'll be focused on the students; your cooperating teacher, if she's good, will care about your overall well-being but will really be all about helping you teach! (And there are always TONS to do and you can talk about the class for hours and hours. I love this about fellow teachers. )
That said, I can totally understand wanting to be out at work: while there is something to be said to coming out after they've gotten to know you and see that you're a good teacher, regardless of sexual orientation (duh!) I think you could be out from the start. When you go to teaching fairs, ask about domestic partner benefits matter-of-factly (you can explain in more detail if they ask.) At a professional teaching interview, they're not going to ask you about your personal life in any way, but you could casually mention your partner at other times. (Again, when it comes to negotiating your contract/benefits, I'd have the partner benefits on the table for coverage reasons alone.) At the beginning-of-the-year family picnic, you bring your fiancee and introduce her as just that, again, matter-of-fact; people can inquire if they want and you can answer how you wish, but I think the more forward you are from the start (ideally before you're hired), the better a school match you can find.
From seeing you at the boards over the years, I've always thought you were a neat person and I can only imagine that you are/will be an amazing teacher... and whatever school you end up at will be lucky to have you! As Heather said, take it step-by-step: there may be challenges but I also see a lot of good stuff. And best of luck with student teaching!!
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