- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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?