Being a teacher is hard work: little appreciation from parents, a demanding curriculum which lays unnecessary emphasis on impossible goals, and the par flux motivation of students themselves leads many an educator to “burn out” and wonder why they started teaching in the first place. Yet on top of this mountain of duties dwells another burden, one which can dramatically affect the pedagogical experience: being Queer.
Gays and Lesbians have been persecuted for as long as religious society has existed. Whether we are talking about Dark Age condemnation or modern day discrimination homosexuals have bared the brunt of the assault on Queer rights. Such facts extend into every sphere of life including education.
Many will remember primary and secondary school as either a wonderful time of development and creativity or of horrid torture. For many Queer people it is the latter; taunts, bullying, and threats of violence make such outcasts lives a living hell. In the hyper-masculine and super-feminine etiquette of High School anyone who does not conform to this standard of gender-norms is quickly ostracized. Mix in a lack of support networks and one has a combination for disaster.
While the conditions today are slightly better then there were several decades ago, thanks in part to an increase in visibility and activism, during the seventies, eighties, and nineties the realities of a “out” Gay or Lesbian teacher was at best an oddity, at worst a liability which needed to “learn its place”. The hostility faced by such people was intense. So when we think back to many of these individual’s own secondary education we must ask ourselves a single question-why?
Why would people who so suffered in school themselves wish to return as teachers and confront a rowdy gaggle of adolescents? In editor’s Kevin Jenning’s book “One Teacher in 10” he explores precisely this question. Collecting dozens of essays written by Out teachers all across the country and globe the reader is treated to a scene of courage.
From stories which warm one’s heart to tales of horror wondering if that person made the correct decision to teach, this book is one which the reader is likely to devour in a matter of days. Personal and intense the memoirs are inspiring to any hopeful educator. This collection is one for the curious, the ambitious, and just plain intrigued yet above all it is one for the caring soul, the one who is looking for comrades in all the right places.