Sunday, April 03, 2005


Yesterday a damselfly landed in my hair. A man pinched it to get it out (I did not want him to do that) and broke its wings. I was sick about it, and angry, because who in the world would think of a damselfly as something that needed to be taken out? I thought of its landing on me as a blessing. But I didn't say anything because, because I don't know why. Because I'm weak and afraid of rocking the boat. Because I think I'm supposed to be a good girl, and quiet. I learned the be a damned quiet good girl lesson well, and as a result of that grew to distrust my understanding of the truth. In the face of logic, what would my little anger matter? What's a damselfly?
I went home and remembered why a damselfly matters and why I sometimes loathe the human race. But I went home alone. It's a conflict.
Today I went to a talk at the Tennessee Williams Festival about using writing as a form of activism. It caused me, among other things, to think about being a warrior and telling the truth. I have been telling the truth, but I've also been trying not to be disloyal, so I've kept some things to myself that should be said aloud. That's why I'm there, to say what I see. But also to be a teacher. I've erred on the side of being loyal to my school. I don't know whom that serves. Besides me.
I'm not an employee trying to make my check in Orleans Parish. I already had a check.
The point of this blog?
A man who is creating a film about public schools contacted me and wants to interview me because of my knowledge of the two sides. I keep putting him off because I think that by talking in public I would jeopardize my position as an actual teacher, and I think I have work yet to do at my school, and I don't want to let my students down for next year. But I also know that I have to tell the truth. Somebody has to tell the truth. There are things that can be done. It doesn't take a rocket scientist. That's one of the secrets I've been keeping. It can be done. Even I know it can be done, and how it can be done. It does not take a rocket scientist.
But I fear that my opportunity to serve the children at my school will be curtailed if I speak out loud. Would I serve them better by speaking aloud in one fell swoop and then being fired or would I serve better by staying there and giving what I have as a teacher?
I know it's not as black and white as all that.



Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

I truly know what you mean, Melanie. Do you do more good by staying and trying to effect change slowly, one day at a time,one student at a time or do you rush out there and try to change the system?

I guess I would ask myself if I can make the kinds of changes that need to be made if I keep working slowly at it or am I only able to affect my own students. Granted, affecting my own students is great -- something that really makes the job worthwhile. But if big changes are possible (and only you can tell if talking about what should or could be done might actually bring about change), is it enough to help a few students?

The question, I think, comes down to whether or not talking to the man and speaking out in general about problems and solutions would help to change things or if it would only help you feel better. Ouch! That came off more harsh than I intended, but I hope you get the idea.

Is there someone else you could or maybe should share your thoughts with before making them so public? Someone at the school maybe?

Melanie, don't ever doubt that you are an activist, whether you decide to talk about the problems or not. Your writing and your life make that obvious.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Marsha said...

I found a quote today by Johann von Goethe that completely embodies what you are doing:
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being."

You already are an activist, and you are changing lives. Now the question is: Can you change more?

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But you already are being truthful, truthful to the PUBLIC - the public, meaning the students you work with. You are being truthful with the kids and people who all expect you to be a liar and you are changing your students by showing them that not all teachers are out to get them. You are showing them the beauty of education and learning and writing and in honesty.

I agree that the film might cause a tint in the true integrity of what you are doing in Orleans. You came there because you wanted and felt a calling to be there, not because you wanted to uncover truths and show everyone else what the truths are of the inner-city schools. I think if you speak out to the media right now, you will cross sacred trust boundaries between you and your students and show them that something is more valuable and important in the world than them. You always made your students your number one priority, along with their safety. You worked hard to establish and maintain trusting relationships with your students from day one and focused on being consistent in their lives. I think that by talking publically right now that you will lose part of your intimate integrity and trust you have with your current students.

My perspective: The privaledged world isn't ready for the reality of what you might be showing them, even though most people would agree that the privaledged world NEEDS to hear it. Who is more important in this situation, the public that you *might be* educating through your words on this video or the actual students that you know you are education on a daily basis and keeping your connecting ties with?

You know you have something established already with your students and this film seems like it might be risking something (the exact risk appears fuzzy from your blog).

I've told you how I am going to change the world before, which is one person at a time. It is a slower way to go, but it a secure and intimate way to initiate change.

You will decide what is best for your students and I have faith that your decision will benefit them and satisfy you.


7:54 AM  
Blogger Clay said...

Perhaps it's better to be an example than to preach?

Will anyone (but your enemies) listen to the truth?

Will your truth be something that eveyone already knows? (i.e., adding no new ideas, merely validating current truths by being one more teacher to say it).

How about an anonymous interview?

1:02 AM  

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