Yes, I am public high school teacher. Special education, or, as we call it here, exceptional education. Ex ed for short. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in 10th grade and took Ms. Clouse’s Shakespeare class (and let’s just ponder the idea of a Southern California public high school in the fall of 1980 offering a Shakespeare class). I took the long way, of course (as my mother said to me at least a hundred times when I was a kid, I make my life harder than it has to be), so now I’m in my late 40s and have only been teaching for four years. And how exactly did I get from Shakespeare to ex ed?
Okay, gotta detour here. My dad taught me many things — most of them probably not by design, and yet I learned anyway — but one stands out the strongest. You have to try to save the world. You just do. It will be a never-ending and pointless exercise in heartbreak, stupidity, and stubbornness, and you will never ever succeed. But you still have to try. If you are one of those people who doesn’t think like this, I may love you with all my heart but there will be a part of me that will never make sense to you and there will be a part of you I don’t understand and am not sure I want to. Because you have to try to help. You have to want to try and help. Animals, people, children especially and the hurt and vulnerable and the unlovely. You have to try, to fix, to solve, to fight for, to rant and rave and cry and give up and try again and save the damn world, people. Because why are we here if we aren’t helping others? What is the point, the purpose? So I have to try to save the world. Even if I’m drowning myself, I have to save someone else while I’m dying.
So after getting married and having three children before age 25 and getting divorced and getting remarried and having another baby amidst three miserable miscarriages, I went back to college to finish my degree and fulfill my quest for a high school English teaching licence. I love books like I love breathing, and I wanted to help teenagers love them too. But I kept worrying about the kids that were on the edges, at risk, who didn’t love reading, who didn’t care about school, who had seen nothing from our society that made them believe that buying into the idea of education as a means of improving their lives was a worthwhile endeavor. I worried about the minority kids, the kids whose parents had given up, kids who were being bullied and ignored and hurt by fellow students and by teachers and administrators. Kids who didn’t learn, who couldn’t figure this stupid junk out and who cared anyway, bruh? I thought maybe I could help some of these kids, you know. Because I have to save something, somebody, somewhere.
That’s how I ended up in ex ed.
(Oh, and more about education will be forthcoming, oh yes…)