Finding My Window
May 27, 2012, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Education, Mental Illness, Society | Tags: , , , , ,

There’s a brown spider that lives in a web just outside the window by the table where I sit to eat and to use my computer. Trees and other natural growth covered the land on which this house stands several years ago. The spider might have once chosen to build its tangled web in a bush or tree, but now, unlike other wildlife, it coexists peacefully with its human intruder.

I see the spider in its web as a symbol of how I want to live my life. There are a lot of systems and structures I had no part in creating that I must accept (like working for a living), just as the spider’s chosen to accept this house, or at least a window of this house.

To me, our education system seems a bit like a foreign intruder. I think it’s too focused on narrow ideas of intelligence and academic “success,” and not focused enough on developing students’ individual talents. I also see schools as places that are more concerned with keeping up appearances (like doing well on standardized tests) than really doing what’s best for students and educators. (Of course, I understand schools must follow laws like No Child Left Behind.)

Despite my views of our education system, I believe I’m meant to teach. When I was in my I-refuse-to-work phase, I would’ve used my views as an excuse to stay away from teaching. But lately, I feel that’s an unrealistic response.

I can’t let my views get in the way of my interests: The people I admire most are people who are good with kids, and I feel moved (to cry) sometimes when I think about becoming a teacher. So I believe I must do what the spider in the window does: make myself at home in someone else’s habitat.

Like the spider, I have my own plans and instincts for what I want to accomplish. I hope to somehow make students feel at home as themselves at school. I also hope to somehow help them disconnect from seeing their race as such a defining part of their identity. I’m hoping that, like the spider, I’m able to coexist and be that kind of teacher.

Up until now I’ve had trouble coexisting as myself in environments I had no part in creating. I was a blunt news reporter who was called a “trouble maker” for writing a story about race and it’s part in a school system’s advertisements for a new school. In the news writing habitat, I guess I wasn’t supposed to write about race unless it was unavoidable.

Similarly, in other positions, like fitness trainer and teacher assistant, I often ended up feeling like my goals and interests were too big or lofty for the positions (or “habitats”) I was working in.

In trying to fit into my society, I recently made this blog private (then later changed it back to public) to hide that I had a mental illness. I also hid and deleted tons of Facebook posts and cut my wild, nappy afro close to my head to make myself seem more acceptable to potential employers.

I was like a spider afraid to build its web. I’m still finding a balance between being rebellious with my hair, writing, etc. and appearing employable. I still have some unusual thought patterns I don’t know what to do with, like ideas about my soul mate. And, as much as I’d like to, it’s difficult to tell an employer I have a mental illness, although they’d easily find out if they found this blog. I want to be free, but I don’t know how in a world that’s traditionally secretive about mental illness and other “flaws.”

Perhaps my lesson is to accept that I’ll always be different–as we all are. And maybe one day, expressing that different-ness will translate into a perfect fit for what the world needs, and what kids need from me. Some of the best stories (like those in the movies Dangerous Minds, and Stand And Deliver) are about teachers who clashed with school traditions, and yet managed to deliver just what their students needed to succeed.


2 Comments so far
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Always be yourself like the spider in the window. He doesn’t know how to be anyone else and doesn’t care to fit anyone else’s expectations. Those who accept you for who you are and your personal talents, instead of your hair and clothes, are who you want to work for.

Comment by TreeHugginVamp

I really appreciate that. So simple and true, but it’s been easy for me to lose touch with. I’ve been seeing myself as a “job beggar” (from “What Color Is Your Parachute”).

Comment by Enlustered

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