I’m a wimp. There, I said it. But I’m not very proud of it. Let me explain…
I am careful with what I say. It seems like I have ALWAYS been careful with what I say. I know there are people who can relate times when I have said some outrageous things – but I usually am aware of my surroundings so I can minimize the damage.
I spent 20 years in the military and as a military officer you are always representing the military. You have to be careful with the things you discuss with others. There’s the obvious Secret and Top Secret things you see and talk about, at work, on a daily basis. But there are the other things that “a good officer” never talks about in public. That is if he or she wants to be promoted.
I can remember, in the early 80’s, when a friend and I were both getting our Top Secret clearances. I still joke about my first question being about my drinking habits. I answered with a severe hangover and a blood alcohol level that would have been close to being legally drunk. But when my friend went in for his interview, they had a picture of him at a rally in Boston as a college student. Where had they gotten that picture and how had they picked him out of the crowd? Creepy stuff but it got me to thinking that I needed to keep my nose clean and my lips tight.
When I turned to education I didn’t realize that I was entering a profession that was equally as limiting, as far as being able to speak my mind. In my second year I said the word “damn” in first period and by the end of the day my principal had called me in because he had been called by the Superintendent and 2 school board members because there was a teacher using profanity in the classroom. Even in my latest school district I was told, in teacher orientation, not to drink alcohol or be seen with alcohol in the town limits.
I have been on Twitter over 6 years. I have had a blog for 4 years. I used to be on Facebook (quit that space because too many people are NOT careful with what they say, ironically). Before I hit “send” or “submit” or “tweet” or any of the other things that send my thoughts into the ether, I pause. I re-read every word. I check for spelling. I check for typos. And, I check for how it will be taken by others as they read it.
As I am going through this post I am carefully determining whether I might offend someone by my words. And, if I do, will that person find reason to get me fired from my job because of what I have said. Some may say this is paranoia. But, losing my job is the biggest fear I have in life (other than dying and not being able to provide for my family – but, then again, I do have pretty good insurance), and I take the possibility of someone taking issue with my writings seriously.
I joined the Navy after college and shifted to the Naval Reserve when I shifted to education. I have always worked and I have never been fired from my job. From 1994 to 2006 I moved every 2 to 3 years and I had to find a new teaching position each time. I never worried about finding another job because I was a male, with military experience, and I taught math. I never had to check any of those boxes about having been terminated from employment.
It may be surprising to some that I feel like such a wimp. I really do have opinions that I would love to put out there. But my fear of losing “everything” keeps me from expressing them. I have great admiration for people in the education world who really tell it like it is – even if I disagree with them. I mean they are willing to say what they believe. How do they do that? Do they worry about being fired for saying such things?
At 56 I’ll never change my wimpiness. I’m hoping that I get more bold with my writings but I worry about who I represent – my school, my school district, the New Tech Network (NTN), the Buck Institute for Education (BIE.org). [NOTE: When I wrote that last line I never included myself. I write for me, but it is a very limited me. ]
5 years from now I will be retired from teaching. I will have a military pension. Then, maybe, I can unshackle myself from my imagined (real?) restraints and start writing what I’m really thinking and feeling. Just 5 more years. Until then, I’ll keep those thoughts to myself.