Saturday, February 4, 2012

No Place But Here

I belong to a book club in which we are reading No Place But Here A Teacher's Vocation in a Rural Community by Garret Keizer. Our book club holds discussion on a wiki. We read a couple chapters and pose questions for discussion. This past week we read a chapter entitled "Sex and Faith." I wanted to share the post I wrote with you.

Kaizer struck a note with me in the chapter on “Sex and Faith.” I have not had many a young pregnant woman walk through my door.  But the first one that did made me look at her, really look at her and wonder how difficult it was to walk in her shoes.  I wanted to do everything I could to help her, whether that was extra time in her studies or offering advice on parenting, or just listening. Not that I’m a perfect parent, in fact at that point I wasn’t a parent at all. When I looked at her I saw my own mother, my biological mother.

When Tish was pregnant with me in 1967, I wonder what kind of support she had from her teachers? Not much I think. In that time being an unwed teen mother was still shameful, like wearing a scarlet letter on your bosom. Is it still as bad today? Tish was just a sophomore beginning her second semester in school, and my birthfather, Gary, a senior. Anyway, as soon as she found out she was pregnant and shared this with her mother, she dropped out of school. Her mother suggested it herself. When Tish began showing, she was shipped off to live with an older sister in Huron where no one knew her.

Tish didn’t like school, especially not English.  Oh the irony of finding your daughter is an English teacher. In both her freshmen and sophomore years she made cheerleading. However, she never cheered because she didn’t have the grades, which is sad because sometimes an interest in sports helps a student to do better in their studies. I’ve asked her about her teachers. She’s said she felt that some didn’t care about her. She tried coming back to school once I was born, but she was a year behind all of her friends since she took nine months off.  Suffering with the loss of a child and not having anyone to talk to about it must have been difficult. She eventually dropped out all together.

Kaizer said, “Dealing with a student who is pregnant or a mother is, for me, like offering condolences to the bereaved; it is something that I shall never do well,” (30).  Are any of us good in dealing with this situation? How difficult was it for Tish’s teachers in 1967 to come forward and help her? Upon answering the call to teach do future teachers understand that on any given day they will not only be teacher, but also mentor, coach, counselor, mother, friend,… Where was this in the job description? This is truly a profession of service in which most of us are called.

My student, a young mother, came back to finish school and graduate. She became a nurse. But at one time she was a young sophomore walking the halls of her school wearing a badge of shame on her chest like my own mother once wore. Like my former student, Tish went back to school and earned her GED. And in my humble opinion, both are warm and loving mothers.

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