As a boarding school teacher, I’m required to wear different hats for various occasions and in various spaces. For instance, in the dorm, I can be a parental figure tucking them in and wishing them a goodnight’s sleep; in the classroom, I am their “faithful guide” helping them see beyond their text and make solid connections; and on the field, I am their biggest cheerleader coaching them through victorious wins and tough losses. There are a number of other roles I’m bound to play at a moment’s notice, and I constantly have to be on my toes ready to tackle whatever comes next—and this weekend would be no exception.
On Friday and Saturday, I chaperoned two student-activities events, and Friday’s Life Size Game Night was far tamer than Saturday’s comedian…a comedian who’d been to our school before, and after this weekend, will never return. I had the pleasure of meeting both the opening act and headliner prior to the start of the show, and it was a great chance to converse and go over basic rules, particularly to ensure the appropriateness of the content. So when it was my turn to introduce the two men who I trusted would captivate my attention and entertain both me and my students for approximately two hours, I was shocked, horrified, and offended at the subject matter spewing from their mouths. From domestic violence and sex to racist and homophobic jargon, I spent most of the night reporting the events and comforting students rather than laughing so hard my belly ached. Instead, my belly ached as the comedians joked about Trayvon Martin’s death. My belly ached as the comedians made sexist comments. And my belly ached as the comedians referred to an Asian woman as “Oriental” and asked her to teach them “Kung-Fu.” With every offensive statement, all of the students looked to me. What role was I to take on that night? Fearless leader? Commander-in-Chief? Sergeant-at-Arms? Well on that night, none of the above. Instead, I encouraged a more silent protest that I am happy to say I did not initiate.
The only applause I gave that night was for the students who chose to protest the comedians by walking out of the show. Those kids who used their feet to send a message. Those kids who used their voices and told the comedians that they would not stand for such intolerance…that our school would not stand for such intolerance. It’s moments like these that remind me of my own life in high school protesting school budget cuts and the war. Moments that remind me of life in college protesting sexual assault against women and the limitations of girls and education. More than anything, it’s moments like these that remind me why I do the work I do: encouraging, inspiring, and empowering young people to make a difference. It only takes one person to change the world. What’s worth fighting for and how will you leave your mark?