Bring Back Teacher

“Two dollars and you can have your own ‘Bring Back Teacher’ t-shirt,” I heard behind me.

Snatching my wallet, I handed two one dollar bills to the girl talking.

I was going to be an activist.

“Extra small for you, Mel?” she asked with a smile. She hadn’t actually been talking to me, so I could see in her eyes her surprise at my sudden about face.

“Yes, please,” I answered, a smile from ear to ear.

The white t-shirt with blue lettering “Bring Back Teacher” was simple, but we had our message. We had our demands, and they were going to be heard.

We were going to bring back our favorite teacher, Mr Teacher (not his real name).

So the next day hundreds of us wore our t-shirts. We were going to make them hear and see how important he was to us. We marched around the halls of the school, chests pushed out and fire in our eyes.

Our activism failed. Nothing happened. Not a damn thing.

That was the first and last time I was an activist, because one of the hardest things to accept is that sting of defeat, and the overall sense that you’ve just been ignored.

*****

Unfortunately, it turned out I was on the wrong side of this. I had teachers and students surrounding me, telling me that he didn’t do what they say he did, but never once did I question it.

He had embezzled money from the school. For all his knowledge and drive to impart it, he had done something really stupid. He was caught by another teacher, and though he paid it back, stealing was stealing. He was officially let go, and we were stuck with a terrible replacement teacher.

wright_brothers
xkcd (c)

So what do you do when you realize you’re on the wrong side of a cause? Do you admit you were wrong? How do you deal with that? Is it hard to switch sides? As it turns out, it can be. The teacher who discovered what Mr Teacher did was put on trial with all the students and faculty because she told on him. The snitching was worse than what he did because he was loved by all, and she was effectively driven out of town (remember, this is Paris, TX, folks) by the end of the year.

I remember telling my friends that what he did was wrong. I remember being told I was stupid, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and that I should just keep my mouth shut. And so I did for fear of being pushed away as the teacher had been.

I held my belief, though, but I had no way of vocalizing it well enough for them to see the truth (though I doubt they would have anyway).

And to me, that’s the issue I personally have with activism. I’m not a debater by nature. I stumble with words, intent, and language. If I’m speaking, my mouth struggles to keep up with my brain, so I can’t seem to form proper sentences that make any sense. I do believe strongly in my stances, and I do admit fault if I realize a stance I have is incorrect. But I will always confess, I’m the last person you want to speak out towards a cause.

Therein lies the reason I don’t tend to write political posts or discuss subjects such as feminism, neurodiversity, equal rights, or even religion (and the hundreds of other causes that deserve equal discussion), because even though I’m a writer, I’m not always the greatest with words or expressing myself. I’m an ill-suited advocate of human rights.

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19 thoughts on “Bring Back Teacher

  1. I want to hug you. I think one of the hardest situations to be in is when a beloved teacher is accused of something and you support them only to find out they were wrong. Like I literally have had this thought before. And you put it really well. Which, in my mind, makes you an excellent advocate of human rights. Very nice post, the use of the comic is great, too!

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. It’s a very difficult lesson to learn, and had I been younger, it may have been much harder to overcome. I’m glad my piece worked, though. I always worry I’m going to say something wrong in these kinds of pieces. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I had never written publicly about anything political until recently. I am vocal about my beliefs with people I know, arguing and arguing, and then over the years I started to feel more and more that I have never changed anyone’s mind about anything. Well, maybe once or twice if I’m feeling optimistic. And then on the Internet, I was extremely afraid of awakening a troll. Still am. I don’t get much attention, though, so I’m probably OK 😉 (knock wood)

    I liked your story about the teacher. How painful to feel like you weren’t heard, and then feel on the wrong side of the issue, and then have your friends insult you. Sorry! That stinks.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve been vocal about issues I believe in but if was caught on the other side, I’d agree to my mistake and move on. Many times we don’t have a complete picture and we go by what we see. If we wait to understand an issue in totality, we may never be able to stand up. And no this is not something that I would say for all things but yes, some times there is a need to act.
    Great personal story!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really liked how you described the sequence of the march here: We marched around the halls of the school, chests pushed out and fire in our eyes. The use of the preposition ‘around’, not ‘through’, and the chests pushed out, hinted to me that the outcome wasn’t going to be successful. It’s easy to have opinions, it’s not easy to defend them when they are challenged, but that doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ activist. 🙂

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  5. It can be embarrassing to find out that the cause you so publicly supported was indeed not worth fighting for. However, it’s brave and honest of you to admit it and rectify your stance. I’d have done the same. I too shy away from writing political posts or taking a stance on touchy topics on my blog. I’m rather scared to defend myself to people who are aggressive in stating their opinions 🙂
    A great personal account!

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  6. Melony, I understand that feeling, and yet I have never felt more called to take a stand than I do now. I see posts about food and I’m annoyed at the triviality even as I write my own. I am trying to find some balance. Not everyone is called to speak; I’m sure your actions are kind and kindness is in short supply these day ❤

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    1. Thanks so much, Nancy. I kind of wanted to write this as my way of saying, “I see and hear everyone advocating a better tomorrow and I wish I could join you without screwing it all up.” We need more kindness and honesty right now to get through what I think is going to be a very dark year to come. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Melony, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of gifts. The world needs people like you to absorb and discern right and wrong and to recognize that sometimes we need to admit we are wrong. If you can do it, so can others. Sometimes the worst thing is getting “dug in” on an issue so much so that you can’t step back and admit an error. Take care of your own corner of the world and you will be like a tiny pebble dropped in a lake, who knows what effect you will have? ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  8. What an awful situation to be in. I feel your pain.

    I’m not naturally an activist, but I’m trying my best to stand up outside of social media. I don’t do politics on my blog, but rather in real life. Here only people who agree with me will read it. Out there I’m hoping to make a difference. But being an activist doesn’t have to mean only marching. Find a cause you believe in and volunteer. You may not change the course of the country (sigh), but you might make someone’s life a little better.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well … I’m a firm believer in the saying that “There is hope in honest error, none in the icy perfection of the mere stylist”

    Or if you want to go the scientific route, error precedes truth, and it should better come first than last. To err is human, only to persist in error is daft.

    What I’m trying to say is I greatly admire your ability for self-reflection, and your courage to admit you were wrong. You don’t even make the (reasonable!) argument, that you acted on false/incomplete information and could therefore at least claim credit for honorable intentions.
    Personally, I struggle with the self-reflection part. The “Oh great, screwed up again” part is familiar 😉 and I’m not shy about broadcasting same (usually in the hope that some kind soul will assist me in an analysis as to how this latest pile of rubble came to be, and how to avoid another one), but your post made me ponder the merits of some quiet introspection.

    In turn, I’d hope you’ll come to give yourself a break now and then. No one likes to be embarrassed, and standing up for your beliefs when you “[…] stumble with words, intent, and language” is a canine of the female persuasion. But one doesn’t need to be Oscar Wilde-like witty to say “I think this is wrong!”

    All the best!

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