Interest In UFOs Gets
Qualified Teacher Fired?
By Alfred Lehmberg

I'd thought I was in America...
Towards the end of 1992, and nearing the conclusion of a very highly decorated twenty-three year military career (where I unflinchingly served the best ideals of our country), I thoughtfully surveyed my contemporaries and superiors for ideas regarding a satisfying and worthwhile contribution I could continue to make subsequent to my impending retirement. The response was virtually universal. Teaching, they all said -- almost to a man and woman. Teaching was what I needed to do.
Clearly an extension of a successful previous occupation, I saw the wisdom (and the honor) in the advice. Upon my retirement, I immediately returned to college to secure a teaching credential in an area where I determined the greatest need. I attacked that academic objective as I would have any military objective -- diligently, intelligently, and imaginatively. I subsequently graduated with that degree in education while receiving the highest honors.
I applied myself strenuously to what I must describe as an extremely enlightening edification rich in the history of western civilization, certainly, as it pertains to the treatment of the *least* of us by the *rest* of us, not to put too fine a point on it. So, my considered specialty was the education of the special needs person from preschool through high school and beyond. The dismissing unwashed and dismayingly uninformed label my very thoughtfully chosen career track as "special education."
As I said, I applied myself to the task. In the entire process I received only one (decidedly humbling) "B". Along with this exceptionally high grade point average I can easily say that I had the respect and appreciation of ALL of my instructors and professors, took full advantage of the academic college experience, and derived a virtual Master's worth of value from my bachelor of science degree. I reached, sir or madam, and it changed me. My horizons got a LOT wider than I would have predicted. Humorously -- I understand why it's the students and teachers who always seem to start the social riot of revolution . . . so please FORGIVE my intensity and passion regarding this matter. I am, after all, the party injured.
Most would argue that I was a shoe-in for a quick position as a school teacher. Indeed, I was reminded frequently all through college by a cadre of counselors and observing teachers that I was a "desperately needed minority" in a teaching field experiencing an "extreme and continuing lack of qualified personnel." ALL the published figures of their critical analysis pointed to a "wide open opportunity" for a serious and sincere person to involve himself devotedly in a quality public education's service. ...No one seemed interested in recruiting me, however. I found that admittedly unsettling, but rationalizing it away, I pressed on. I should have seen the handwriting on the wall.
Predictably, upon my eventual graduation (magna) there were, essentially, no takers. I took the obligatory resume and references around to the different school systems, and I entered the local data base; I was treated, generally, like the advantage taking carpetbagger or scalawag (for the exact same reasons, I believe, upon educated reflection). I didn't get so much interest (hardly) as a call in for a cursory interview. My single substantive parlay (over an hour's drive away) resulted in a six page letter of resignation for ethical concerns associated with that system (not my own), and is available to the interested upon request. I deeply resent my provoked regret for THAT whole affair, but I digress.
Finally -- I secured a position at two related schools as a 'substitute' teacher. The children were pre-school through the sixth grade (including, of course, the special needs kids), and I was at least having much of the JOY of teaching if NOT the day to day responsibility for it. I was in the second year of the experience, and it seemed to be going nicely. I was getting along well with (near all of) my fellow teachers and all of my academic superiors. I was getting frequent accolades and expressions of appreciation on my attitude and initiative from parents and teachers . . . when, by special delivery mail one Saturday morning after a week of inexplicable (to me) inactivity, I was abruptly FIRED.
I was astonished. The admittedly questionable events of the preceding weeks did not prepare me for this eventuality at all. I was completely blindsided.
I won't say I didn't bring it on myself, sir or madam, but at fifty-one years, and while realizing fully that I was starting (and staying) at the bottom in a new career track, I still have an aversion to someone making water on my leg and telling me it's raining. I'm also keenly interested in UFOs, but why should that matter to anyone? Justified written expressions of my provoked irritation with an arbitrary system and autocratic individuals include record memos of calm rationality regarding immature behaviors on the part of persons trying to deal autocratically with me, or running over me, or just treating me with less respect than I would be expected to treat them. These papers are also available upon request. As an aside, everyone deserves SOME kind of due process, especially those with no other protection, shelter, or recourse. A substitute teacher in ANY school system is in the preceding category.
Honestly, as a well seasoned and highly trained human relations counselor in my own right (involved at all levels in the process of an efficacious transition of psychological adolescents into competent women and men, individually cooperating in efficient teams) I had a reasonable and experiential basis to work from regarding the utility of ethical treatment and the rewards of fair play. I'm not a mean spirited person and I'm not spoiling for a fight, but you'll hear me if you step on me. I'm not shy. It's the American way.
At issue? Recently I had the opportunity to substitute in one class of the fourth grade for six continuous days. I thought it went extremely well. This resulted in a reported (though completely unsubstantiated) "FLOOD" of complaints, following the experience, allegedly from members of the "school board", fellow "teachers", and concerned "parents." The bone of contention -- the highlight of all these converging torches and pitchforks, was my public WEB site, a site devoted to UFO's and critical social commentary. I suspect, rather, common high school clique-ishness of the piqued arbitrary as a more likely culprit -- a memo also on request, but that's another digression.
As regards the offending WEB site . . . I am proudly unashamed of my WEB site, which is academically "G" rated, and contains NO references to gratuitous sex, violence, or drug use. I KNEW kids could go there (indeed, been GOING there for over a year)! There is NO need for parental concern -- no need for a nanny filter. There is NOTHING on my site that they cannot see on main stream Saturday morning TV, TDC, TLC, THC, PBS, and A&E , or ANY middle-of-the-road coffee table magazine. Moreover, while my WEB site is, in a literary sense, WAY over the head of the gifted fourth or even sixth grader, it is STILL a splendid display for original and inspiring art works IN NO WAY suggestive or prurient, and a GREAT example of what can be done with the most original and freedom producing medium since the invention of the printing press! My site is an academic SHOWCASE (I not so humbly submit!) used in the exact same fashion as it was used the ENTIRE last year without complaint from the referenced parents, teachers, and school board members. Astonishingly, I'd bet my site can be found on some of those classroom computers, still.
That was the thrust of ANY mention of my site, AT ALL, was that it was topical, by the lesson plan, and in accordance with valid discussion on the uses of computers in everyday life -- something the student could do, create on his or her own . . . for FREE! I'm not directing the children to my site, so much -- rather providing tangible demonstrations for what THEY can do themselves with a technology that is bearing down on them like a proverbial freight train!
Additionally, as convenient enhancement for a teacher's referent quality, it was helpful to inform them that I was an "award winning artist" and a "prominately published" author able to better encourage their appreciation for their own hard work... when they were complaining about their Art curriculum being too academically heavy this year, or what a chore critical reading and writing were, for instance. I was able to demonstrate how knowledge of the scope of computer generated art, for example -- depth of field, the effects of light and shadow, vertical position in the field et al, provided them with a new and more efficiently productive way to look at their evolving and accelerating world.
Expanding a young persons horizons, encouraging a self kindling desire to immerse themselves in the writing/reading process and providing them with an interesting demonstration that counts in the real world -- written and oral communication plus good, real world and immediate reasons to get INTERESTED in these things? That's what they allegedly go to school for . . . isn't it? I worked hard to make it as interesting as I could. I tried to sweep the individual child up in a self generating interest. That's my thrust! The mere vehicle for encouragement of student interest is my rational interest in anomalous aerial phenomena and exobiology. My WEB site is NOT "inappropriate" for the purpose of encouraging student interest. I bitterly resent any suggestion that it is.
The clincher? Out of clear deference to mom and dad, I cautioned the kids to check with their parents BEFORE logging on for an unsupervised look. I did this VERY strenuously; I always do. I am very responsible about that, forgetting for a moment that there is no need to be concerned.
I am certainly more than willing and abundantly able to rationally debate the courageous parent, teacher, or school board member who has questions regarding the validity or the appropriateness of the massive original contents on my site, contents which would fill several books electronically published in world class venues. This is forgetting for a moment that had I been directed to stop using it as an example to students, I certainly WOULD have -- while continuing my rational defense of it to satisfy a simple sense of honor (or wounded pride). I'm PROUD of what I do, what I have done -- what I create. No HIDDEN agendas exist to subvert or corrupt. I stand by the true context of all that I have painted or written. I've got good support for learned convictions -- acquired in college and life's experience, I stand by them. Lastly, I'm reasonable. I can be shown an error. I can change.
But -- I'm for living and teaching, sir or madam, in a world that is a marketplace of ideas and a realm of ever increasing horizons and possibilities. The arbitrary autocratic was exposed and made useless by the first world war, supposedly, and in the twenty-first century it is the efficaciously strong-willed individual who contributes to a stronger social web or infrastructure! That's what I'm about, frankly -- teaching a young person how to be a good leader in the twenty-first century, or how to intelligently FOLLOW the good leaders that they will. I aspire to the authoritative and eschew the authoritarian. I have a lot of successful experience with that. I'm good at it. I have hundreds of anonymous testimonials. Perhaps some of the other teachers are content to teach good "employees". I am not. I teach effective leaders, and as everyone cannot be the leader, I correspondingly teach intelligently critical followers.
To be so abruptly and decisively terminated (without clear warning of any kind), and my career in education, as a result, in sincere jeopardy (all but destroyed) is a source of _extreme_ disappointment to me.
I am exactly what the education system asked for. I have the attendant respect for the process (demand it in fact), an appreciation of the consequences for actions taken, and a desire to promote and encourage a level playing field. I celebrate the intelligence, capability, and imagination of an otherwise maligned diversity, and I know the definition of a bigot. I'd be an effective teacher, sir or madam; I've BEEN an effective teacher for the better part of two decades.
I teach respect for all people in a manner that will transfer, and my classrooms were a model of civility and purpose when I officiated in them. The children were at attentive dress right dress and at appropriate parade rest in all cases. I NEVER remotely lost control of a classroom. Ironically, the only comments from my superiors regarding the "appropriateness of my classroom management techniques" were ONLY positive comments. I didn't send kids to the office. I very seldom needed to.
Paradoxically, I report that I have received unsolicited offers for excellent written recommendations from the Principal of the one and the Vice Principal of the other schools as a testament to the abrupt divergence I have very suspiciously generated. As regards the job, I came early and I stayed late. I did much more than was required for the very minimum wage. I aspired only to be the model substitute teacher, to earn appreciation, and achieve that very illusive idiosyncratic credit for more responsible full time use within the system. It was not to be.
Frankly, I think my non-discretional maltreatment in this matter was egregiously autocratic and arbitrary, a violation of moral due process, and the very possible waste of six years of my time. Indeed -- knowing what I know now (I could write a book, and perhaps will) I would probably have involved myself in some other kind of career field. As it happens, how can I be expected to react upon blowing up in the minefield of a so capriciously arbitrary an education *system*, anyhow? Feeling I've been wronged, I speak out. I must. Anything else is an inelegant agreement with the specious reasons posited for my abrupt release and encouragement for similar autocratic and arbitrary treatments to be suffered by persons that come after me.
Finally, I must ask myself how it is possible that a seasoned, well traveled, highly and appropriately educated person cannot break into a career field that, by ALL accounts, no one else wants? How can this BE when I have satisfied every requirement, touched every base, and filled every hole? I suggest, perhaps not so humbly, that I am merely standing outside the inequitable arbitrary . . . and the problem is NOT mine. It can't honestly be about UFOs, can it?
So why don't I teach? Apparently, I'm not to be allowed. Am I that bad, far off the beam -- that much of a psychological threat to children? I don't think so, people who know me (recommended me for the job) don't think so. My guess is that if we sat down over a coffee, you wouldn't think so, either. So what's the real problem? If people can't be interested in the peculiar occurrences happening around them (occurrences otherwise shoved teasingly in their faces by a ubiquitous corporate media) -- what's the point? Quality life is the INDULGENCE of ones (law abiding) curiosity. Moreover -- curiosity NEVER killed the cat! That's another lie. It only kept the cat FED!
In conclusion, how is it that an otherwise acceptable person in this highly principled nation, a person loaded with quality credentials (I add)... how can that person be denied the opportunity to contribute something back to what that nation says it so desperately needs -- quality teachers? Is it justifiable that an interest in UFOs and related material can be so damning and ostracizing? Apparently so. And if that's true, doesn't that say a lot more about my society, than about me?
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