My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

My Dichotomy

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August 18, 2013

Dear Readers,

I have been teaching at my new school now for a little over a month, and I seem to be enjoying it.  There were certain realities present in my previous two teaching jobs that have thankfully, been removed.  The last two places I taught include a boys’ prison in the middle of the Sonoran Desert and a girls’ school in the middle of the Arabian Desert.  Both environments were equally restrictive, yet equally rewarding.  On the surface, they appeared to be polar opposites.  However, upon closer inspection, I realized that the two couldn’t be more alike.

Although I had always dreamt of becoming a high school teacher, the thought of teaching boys behind bars never once crossed my mind, until it did.  And then, when it did, I was only too willing to go along.  Well, most of me was willing to go along.  And the most of me that was willing to go along, was always waging war with the some of me that was not.  Some of me usually whispered through clenched teeth, “Are you friggin’ kidding me?!  Get us out of here!  It’s a prison for Christ’s sake!”  To which most of me would usually respond, “But, we’re making a difference.”

And we were; making a difference, that is.

By the same token, teaching in the Middle East had never crossed my mind either.  As a matter of fact, some of me and most of me had the same conversation as when I was at my previous job.  Some of me would say, “Are you friggin’ kidding me?!  Get us out of here!  It’s the Middle East for Christ’s sake!”  To which most of me would usually respond, “But, we’re making a difference.”

And we were; making a difference, that is.

Besides making a difference, here is an incomplete list of other similarities:

Both were located in the middle of a desert – At least I was used to the weather!

Both required me to dress conservatively – Not that I ‘show out’ when I choose how I dress, but I do like to choose my own dress.

Both were far away from me, culturally – I couldn’t understand the gang mentality that was prevalent in the prison, nor could I relate to the overwhelming patriarchal society of the Middle East

Students at both schools called me something other than Ms. Kunzmann – the girls in the Middle East called me Victoria because my last name was too difficult for them to pronounce; the boys in the “pen” called me Fucking Bitch because, well, they could

Students at both schools thought I couldn’t teach them anything – Students at both schools were wrong.  I was able to teach the boys a modicum of English so that many of my students earned their GED.  I taught the girls that they could affect change in the world.

Students at both schools had very limited freedoms – Understandably so for the boys, they relinquished their rights once they were adjudicated (sentenced).  However, the girls’ rights were stripped from them once they were born.

Students at both schools saw me as an anomaly.  Subsequently, students from both schools really, really, really wanted to know the real me.

Students at both schools were very needy.  Teaching at both schools was mentally taxing.

Now however, I am back where I started.  I am teaching at a traditional public school.  The students are traditional public school students.  I am a traditional public school teacher and I seem to be enjoying it.  Right?  Right.  So then tell me, why do I feel like something is missing?  Hmm.  Peace, ~v.

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