There is a reality rub-in. It is time for a new furnace. In living Spirit daily, we recognize the symbolism here. It is time for new enthusiasms. A household member departs. There is need for more income, NOW. You talk to God and surrender to what is.. Not immediately feeling inspired by a brand new way to bring in some cash, one returns to jobs that one has left behind, knowing on some level that it'll end up with remembering why one left it behind in the first place. But somehow it feels right "for now", an evolution on a spiral you recognize as some of your soul's experiences through time. You tell yourself, "It is temporary". Part of you feels like a whore, doing it for the money, hard as you try to rationalize that you may make a difference in the lives of a few people you will meet. One musters up the energy, sets the alarm clock, gets up and just does it!
This is how I found myself "substitute teaching" in the high school. Like Rip Van Winkle, it had been 20 years since I left teaching in the public schools. I was curious as to how things had changed. I wondered where the issues of tolerance of differences and sexuality stood. Well, wonder no more! Upon entering the front door, there before my eyes on the very first bulletin board was a very attractive poster advertising a meeting for the "Gay Alliance". We had just entered the sign of Scorpio in the halls of testosterone and estrogen. Where tolerance stood, I did not know. However, exposure of the issues was there before me, head on! That was different than when I was in school. I just learned that!
It was "School Spirit" week. No one told me the kids would be in their pajamas. As the week progressed, so did the numbers of teachers who were absent, with more "work" for me. The third day of the week was "Rent a Senior Day". The most popular costume for the young men was that often taken by comedians, the cross gender dressing. Having young handsome and beautiful males, sporting bras and balloons and panty hose and high heels, administering lipstick as they listened to me introduce myself, was not exactly the picture I had in mind .The Senior Honors Class transmigrated from a discussion of Gilgamesh to a discussion of whether or not condoms ought to be available through the schools. Many Christian parents were opposed. Perhaps, some chided, if "Jesus loves you" were printed on them, they might approve.
I felt more like I was in a college dorm on the weekend, rather than in a public high school. I reminded myself it was "School Spirit" week. Or was it simply the "manic" week resultant from all of the repression…no matter…it simply was the week that was. I went home, only to find more of the same in a complimentary issue of a Mass. Newspaper which highlighted tolerance in this issue. There was a big debate going on in the state over a lesbian judge who decided that a high school student had the right to dress up as the transvestite that he was, so long as he did not harass any male students. There were articles of "hate" and "intolerance" toward the "lesbian" judge. There was misinformation about the nature of transvestites, for they are not interested in other guys, only women, in fact they are obsessed by women.
Interestingly enough, "School Spirit" week was the one in which many teachers called in "sick".
Other days were spent in varied subject areas ranging from Architectural Drawing to Earth Science, to Photo Lab to English to Phys Ed to Bay State Careers. In the survey, I returned to many of my own mixed feelings in school, both as a former student and as a former teacher. There were those who were interested in the subjects, those who were bored, and those who simply belonged elsewhere. There was something about a natural life that was missing, being able to go for a walk when one wanted to, go to the bathroom when the urge was there, work hard and silently and diligently when the time felt right, and doing nothing but sit in the creative void when that felt right. I remembered kids who felt like they belonged elsewhere, for their restlessness was not compatible with my or anyone else's learning. They needed something else. There are many more of the restless in our schools today, incarnations that are demanding something different.
Government funded education teaches the pupil that he doesn't belong to himself, but is public property. The aim of the school is to teach students to become consumers and amass wealth so that he or she can contribute most back to the state. Ask a student why he/she is "suffering being bored" by going after a diploma rather than going for a life and getting a GED and then go on to higher learning, the answers were always the same…"things" and "money" and "status colleges". No one mentions a passion for learning, or for inspirational thinking. I found myself mirroring this same attitude, so propagandized in myself as I bluntly told some students that I was only subbing to earn some money to be able to pay my town taxes so that they could "suffer being bored". I felt like a hypocrite, turning in a student who had ripped up his assignment and left class without permission. He thought the assignment was "dumb". He wouldn't go along with it. If more were like him, Hitler would not have gotten where he did. As "public property", this student was required to stay in the room rather than go find himself. My job was to see that he conformed to the rules. What he needed was counseling on finding his personal interests. He was punished for having an emotion, and emotional intelligence that said that something else was trying to happen. I was required to turn him in, and I felt deflated for something "was rotten in Denmark", in the system itself, not this young man.
There is no such thing in this country as the common church, or the common e-zine or the common pizza. Yet there is a common school for the common good of all of those who don't find their alternative setting.
Through public education we demand that different archetypes from different backgrounds perform equally in the one size fits all school. In the 1840's, we told parents they no longer had to be responsible for their kids. The age-segregated, competition driven, time based system designated by the Prussians after the defeat of Napoleon took hold and never changed. The restless took apprenticeship, while the "obedient" continued on with their place in the schools.
What have I learned by going back to education again? I've learned that the system is not well all over again. I've learned that I don't belong in that corporate environment, with 20 minute lunch breaks, having to withhold beverages I enjoy just because there is no time to go to the bathroom. I don't like rushing from room to room to be on time, sacrificing grace of movement out of fear of being late. If it is a beautiful day, I like to seize the day and go for a little walk to get refreshed, when I need it, not when the bell rings. There are times when I can write a lot, and days when nothing is flowing. Knowing what is right for me at any moment is where the key to my happiness lies. I have the right to these freedoms throughout my day. So does everyone else.. Having to tell students who are movement-centered to sit down and write and deny rather than work with their individual natures feels cruel, but it happens simply because we must keep track of the vast numbers with whom we must monitor. There is no trust. We need to put an end to the sometimes silent, sometimes overt suffering we are creating in the school system and throughout the work world. I felt like I was pouring my energy into a big hole, and really serving no purpose except to respond with "there has to be some big time changes here!" .
What would I recommend? Take away the walls. Have smaller classes for the elementary and middle schools and emphasize that each student KNOW themselves and feel supported for who they are rather than what test they can pass. Provide vouchers for classes for everyone after grade 8 and allow each one to move at their own rate of speed, developing their own individual portfolios of what they have accomplished either individually or in small groups. Take away the routine schedule and create an open campus where all ages from 14-90 could benefit from various lectures or activities or actual classes if that is what is desired. Let the portfolios be given the consideration for entrance into higher education. Those who accumulated credits fast could zoom on rather than wait for others. Let those who prefer to work at home on computer, or go to a public library or watch some film, or create some film, simply do so. Provide guidance for those who need help organizing their activities. Why should we be responsible as taxpayers for babysitting every day, just so parents can know what their kids are up to? Let student's jobs be part of their program of study. Come to school when you've signed up for a class or activity and be somewhere else with friends or at a job when that was more appropriate. Return to the natural self. That is all I want for my peace of being in the world. If someone has another picture of their heaven, let them live it, either alone or with others who share their private world. Let's put an end to suffering. I was called a Communist by a senior in response to my suggestion that some people begin to model the living with "less" rather than "more"; to share the things in our environment, rather than waste resources for everyone to have private ownership of everything.
What did I learn in my re-education? I learned that the public school setting is not a well place for me. I wonder if it is truly well as it exists for anyone. I am ready for Glasnost. What will it take for such a change to happen?