And not just any former student, this was a kid from the very beginning of my teaching career! Back in the day when I had more enthusiasm than experience, more passion than pedagogical knowledge.
I remember this kid. I have often seen his face in my mind over the years, because he was one of those creative souls for whom school seemed just a little too basic. Teachers, I suspect, didn’t really appreciate the true value of this guy’s innovative mind. He wasn’t a troublemaker, in the teachery sense of the word, but I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that he was rarely if ever intellectually challenged as much as he could or should have been in elementary school.
Likely bored to tears by by my basic, beginning teacher lessons, the kid would sit quietly while I droned on, and glue little bits of pencil and eraser to the legs of his desk. Quite creative, actually, if you overlook the fact that he was vandalizing board property.
Naython was nowhere to be found; turns out he had decided to tuck himself into his locker, out in the hall, and had become stuck. (Later, in response to my query about why, on God’s green earth, he would shut himself into a locker, he nonchalantly replied, “I wanted to see if I could fit”.)
Speaking of rainbows, judging by the young man’s LinkedIn profile (he still looks very much like he did in Grade Six, btw!), I would venture a guess that he might be of my tribe, so to speak. Both his volunteer endeavors and his paid work over the past decade would suggest that he is either part of the LGBTQ family, or a very strong ally.
Assuming the former, I am struck with a nagging sense of guilt.
I did not come out of the closet – – to myself or my students – – until the final few years of my teaching career. And as such, I missed many opportunities to model for the students in my classes what a “normal“ queer adult could look and sound like. And if I’m right in my assessment of my new LinkedIn contact’s sexual identity, then he was one of the statistically 2 to 3 kids in my class that year who did not get to see and hear that it was OK to be gay (or bi, lesbian, trans, 2-spirit, etc.)
And now that my days in a classroom are over, and I play a more subtle role in helping to shape education policy at the provincial level rather than more directly influencing students, I must resort to guiding and mentoring other educators to be good allies, or, if they themselves identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, to be confident in who they are and embrace this part of their identity for and with their students.
The Naythons of the world might well depend on it!