To all of our conservative teachers out there: be calm, be creative, and keep your job.
We know the feeling of wanting to express discontent with certain things you are asked to do for your job as a teacher, such as conducting certain lesson plans in response to current events, assigning a project that has your students nearly creating campaign ads for the next socialist running for political office, using a text right out of the Black Lives Matter curriculum, etc. When these come up, repeat the following in this order:
Stay Calm: Breathe. Do not express any opposition immediately. First, assess the situation and whether or not it is severe enough to speak out. (Rule #1: Don’t tell anyone you’re conservative. Don’t act like a radical leftist. Just stay objective even with your closest teacher friends in leisure settings. Teaching is tough, and you need your friends at work – don’t lose them. Also, don’t risk friction with your supervisor – you will be evaluated and it is foolish to have that jeopardized by the outward expression of a firm political viewpoint that you couldn’t keep to yourself.)
Now, there are exceptions in which you just have to speak up, but doing so will still not make anyone certain that you’re conservative. For example, when I was a curriculum writer, my colleagues wanted to do several things that I did not approve of for the classroom. One such example was an assessment in which students would be asked to compare Nazi concentration camps to Japanese internment camps. For obvious reasons, I shut this down immediately and it did not happen… at least not on paper. I was never in my colleagues’ rooms to see if they discussed it anyway. I voiced opposition, but made it strictly about an issue with factual content, not an issue about anti-American agendas.
On the other hand, if I’m asked as a teacher to capitalize the “B” in Black, that is not something I would personally risk my reputation or job over. If it something that bothers you, you may want to capitalize the “W” in white as well, as a subtle way to show opposition, but remember to be selective about what you speak out against. If you continuously express opposition, you will be strongly suspected of being conservative and dismissed as a (fill in the blank) every time you speak.
Be Creative: If something is brought up that you need to teach, but you disagree with it and/or you disagree with the suggested materials, then think outside the box you are put in. One of the easiest ways out is with the current trend of student-centered learning. Give your students texts with both the far-left and conservative viewpoints (multiple perspectives), and try out something like a Socratic Seminar. The teacher cannot be ridiculed for denouncing the fabrications of the 1619 Project, for example, because you never said anything about it as the teacher; the students were having a discussion amongst themselves and they arrived at the conclusion that it had no evidence to be taken as a serious piece of historical content. The teacher-centered teaching model is no longer acceptable, but the student-centered one is – use it to your advantage.
In another case, following the devastating current events of school shootings, we were asked to conduct a Second Amendment lesson. I did not agree with doing a lesson on the Second Amendment in response to these current events, but it was my job and I knew I could take the creative route: I guided my colleagues to select a text that was not too radical and played “devil’s advocate” the whole time we were searching for articles. We are history teachers after all, we have to make sure all sides are present right? (Side note: When it came time for me to do this lesson, I simply read through the article with each class in five minutes, asked if there were any questions and moved on to my lesson. “I was out last week for a conference and lost a day. I’m behind in my unit and needed to get this lesson in before the test next week, so I had to make it quick.”) The same can be done if you are required to include the BLM curriculum, just pull out a quote, use it as a “Do Now” discussion question, or use it to “inspire questions” that you will ask throughout your lesson. You might not always be successful in defending your choice, but don’t let that discourage you from trying to find a way around problematic curriculum issues.
Keep Your Job: At the end of the day, you are a professional. Be professional. Be the best teacher you can be with what you currently have. Stay true to yourself, and learn what you can deal with and where you draw the line. Set your goals high and do not jeopardize them unless it is something you are willing to be ostracized and potentially lose your job over. We want you in the classroom, becoming curriculum writers, and becoming administrators.
You’re teaching the future generations of America. The essential ideas of your lessons and words are going to impact them more than anything else. Students may not remember that you quickly read through a Second Amendment article or that you capitalized a word, but they will remember you telling them that the New Deal raised taxes because you wrote it across the entire board, and you had them write it down in extra large print, bolded, starred, and highlighted in their own notebooks. They will remember the way you made them feel about their country, not the specific vocabulary term they needed to know. They will remember how you made them feel when they were doubtful that they couldn’t go to college and other teachers told them to fight for free college, but you told them about opportunities. We know it’s frustrating, but we need you in classrooms speaking to our future generations more than we need you to risk your career over an argument with an administrator.
With the success of The Locke Society, many of these problems that conservative educators face will no longer exist. There is strength in numbers, and if we succeed in inspiring freedom loving individuals to enter the educational field, when radical ideas are pushed onto educators, they will be able to resist them more openly on a united front; this will make the task of saving our nation much easier.