I haven’t blogged for a while as I have been pretty busy but this is something I feel I need to share. I have been a teacher for 5 and a half years. In this time I have taught hundreds of children. I became a teacher to try and make a difference to these pupils, not only educationally but also in their lives outside of school. Take away all of the crap and pressure from the government, I absolutely love my job, more than I thought I would. It gives me the opportunity to affect the education of many children and help them grow into adults. I believe developing positive relationships with them is essential, this allows them to respect you more as a teacher too. There were things I went through in school that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about, let alone teachers. So I wanted to be approachable and if there were students experiencing similar things as I did, I want them to feel they can talk about them.
Just over a year ago I did my first whole school assembly. I was extremely nervous about it and wanted to make a positive impression to the pupils. Quite often kids switch off in assemblies, I wanted to talk about things that were current and would inspire them. After the assembly I wrote a blog about it; The Assembly Bug. In this assembly, I focused on homophobia and shared the story of my sister and a friend of mine who I played football with. At the time I wanted to share my story but I lacked support of the Head and after contacting Stonewall decided it was a bad idea without it.
We now have a new head (who is an awesome guy). Two weeks ago I had an upper school assembly to year 10 and 11 pupils. I decided once again to try my luck and ask if I could share my personal struggles with coming out in school. I was ecstatic when the head agreed, he gave me full support and I left his office with a huge smile on my face. I have previously blogged about how I was bullied at school but I felt unable to be completely honest. I was worried that if pupils or parents read my blog, my secret would be out and it could affect my job. It seems ridiculous really that someone should feel they can’t be themselves in all walks of their lives because of the opinions of others.
Theme of the week for my assembly was forgiveness. This was perfect as it fitted with my story. When I was in year 10, I told my ‘best friend’ that I had a girlfriend. She then told everyone my secret. I wasn’t ready for everyone to know and wasn’t mature enough to handle it so made the decision to deny it. In hindsight (powerful thing that), I wish I had just admitted it and been honest. I even lied to my own twin sister to start with. It would have been so much easier. However, I didn’t really know anyone else that was gay and I hadn’t been exposed to it much. It was all new and even though it was only 13 years ago, we have come a long way since then in accepting it into society. I then became ill with glandular fever which I have now linked with me not coping well with all that happened. I didn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through, possibly because I didn’t really understand what was causing it all. I really wish I had had more courage to talk about it to teachers but it is what it is, I can only learn from it and try and help others deal with it in a better way than I did, by sharing my story. The point I wanted to make to the pupils was sometimes forgiveness can set you free. I forgave the girl, myself and let it go so I could move on and accept who I was. They care so much about what other people think of them, when they let go of that, they can lose the fear of being different and just be themselves.
So I shared this story with the pupils. It was an extremely nerve racking experience as I wasn’t sure how they would react. At the end of the assembly I then showed a picture of me and my girlfriend. It was interesting to see their reaction as I didn’t actually say what the secret was when sharing the story. Some of them were shocked, others already had their suspicions.
After the assembly, it was almost like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could finally be who I was and more importantly, share my experiences in my teaching. I have taught many PSHE lessons about discrimination, same sex couples, gay marriage or bullying and I just wanted to share my story and opinions but I couldn’t. Now I can and I feel empowered by the experience. The feedback from all the staff and pupils has been really positive. It sparked conversations with pupils telling me how brave I was for sharing it and how they respect me more for being so honest, that it inspired them, I even had a member my tutor group hug me and tell me she was proud. They had been waiting apparently. I have even had a few girls come to me and share their stories and struggles, I think it’s good for them to speak to someone they know has been through it. It is easy for pupils to forget that teachers have been through things too, we are human beings not robots. The worry I had about negativity was unnecessary, so far no one seems to care and I have a feeling it will stay that way. We have come a long way in 13 years, pupils are openly gay and so much more accepting than they ever used to be. But that being said, there is still a long way to go. I just hope that by me coming out, I have taken a positive step towards changing perceptions of gay teachers and I urge and fellow teachers to follow suit and have the courage to share your stories with pupils. They have a lot to learn from you.
I am happy I can finally be myself and be honest when I talk to the pupils. Now I don’t have to worry about them asking me if I’m gay. They already know 🙂