Fear Into Faith: On Being A Reluctant Role Model

Teaching is stressful, but to have the extra layer of dealing with your identity, deciding whether to share it and if that will label you, or cause people to discriminate against you, or even get you fired from the job you love – all of those thoughts have kept me scared and quiet for most of my life.

Being named National Teacher gave me the choice to be visible, especially for students who are dealing with the same issues, but are afraid to talk. Some people don’t like teachers to talk about anything that’s personal and even those who are fairly open-minded wonder why coming out is necessary. Why, they wonder, do I talk about myself in connection with schools and students? Why don’t I just keep it to myself?

On many occasions, I’ve agreed with them, but I always felt like I was missing an opportunity to live out the Gandhi saying my students adopted: Be the change you wish to see in the world. If me being visible helps other teachers to teach from their authentic, undivided selves, it’s worth risking the criticism.

Those boys and girls need to see that it’s possible to be gay and happy. They are counting on me to tell my truth because it helps them to be brave and tell their truth. Our stories turn fear into faith in ourselves, no matter what age we are.

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