Thursday, September 19, 2013

A first GSA meeting brings about some old fears

I originally wanted to write this post last night, but like with everything else lately, I simply ran out of time before I had the time to do it.  Maybe it's better that I write this now anyway, after the fact. You see, today was the first meeting of our school's GSA, or Gay/Straight Alliance, and this year I am running the club with my pal Laura Kim.  Though I am excited at the prospect of being a role model and mentor to a bunch of GLBT kids, the whole thing conjures up some very old and pretty scary feelings.

Mr. Myers, the ESL Teacher

Back in 2009, I penned a piece for Yahoo called A Day of Silence, which is partially about a national awareness day sponsored by GLSEN and carried out by GSA's across the country.  The rest of the essay concerned how I have to walk a thin line at my job, especially when that particular day rolls around in April.

My students are like my family, and being the person that gives them the essential lifelong tool of language makes me kind of a special person in their lives.  That being said, they know much of what there is to know about Mr. M, though there's one part of my life that I've never discussed with them.

As a teacher I've learned that not being straightforward with students leads to nothing but trouble. They're a lot smarter than many of us give them credit for and we need to speak with them as young adults, not children.  I pride myself in engaging my students them with open and honest dialogue, and I know they appreciate that.  As such I feel they get to learn more not only about English, but about life, as well.  So in a way I've always felt like a hypocrite in not being totally honest with them about me.


Fast forward to this school year.  I said I was excited at the prospect of being able to provide guidance and leadership to another group of kids near and dear to my heart, yet I'm finding myself scared at the prospect of outing myself to this group without it leaking into my classroom.  I feel like I'm facing a momentous moment of truth.

Last night capped a few weeks of faraway anticipation by bringing the reality of the impending meeting into my psyche.  I was decidedly nervous, especially when one of my students mentioned yesterday that he wanted to come to our meeting.  I know that in this day and age I shouldn't be so uptight about it, and up until about a week ago I had openly decided that I would come clean to the kids at the first meeting in the hopes of bringing some of my own experience into the equation of their young lives.  But once I arrived at the meeting today all of that changed.

Our First Meeting

One of the goals that LK and I have for the club this year is to increase its membership.  For the past several years the group has only consisted of about five to six kids, and they were mostly all girls.  In order to be a real gay/straight alliance, we also felt we needed to get some boys into the mix, too.  We really played up the first meeting big time this week during morning announcements, promising prizes to all who showed up, and it worked!  Upon arriving late to the meeting (of course!), I walked into a round of applause (thanks LK!) by about 20-30 kids.  Wow!

With a combination of the hot temperature in the room, that many kids, and the fact that I didn't really know any of them too well, I immediately made a decision to put off my "coming clean." Though I rarely am at a loss for words in the classroom, my thoughts went warbly as Laura Kim did her thing and got them all excited about the club.  My words were minimal at best, and not very inspiring.

So somehow I've got to get through this.  Maybe it's just the fear I'd harbored inside of me from when I was young and things weren't as accepting, but knowing myself and how I like to operate, I'm going to do it and do it well.  It just might take a little longer than I had originally thought.  Stay tuned and let's see how this plays out...

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