Why I Stopped Writing

I guess I could blame it on writer’s block.

But more accurately, I blame it on my fear of my own voice. 

2017 has been a year of intense political strife and polarized arguments. It has been a year of crass journalism, de-friending social media debates, and endless euphemisms to avoid offense.

As a teacher, it meant trying to be a face of neutrality in a polarized and emotionally charged classroom. And after years of being accused of “indoctrinating homosexuality” and a “crude Feminist agenda,” I strive ever more to prove that I am just trying to cultivate discussion with critical thought that might challenge the homogenous population in Highlands Ranch for the sake of learning about various perspectives and experiences, as I thought were the duties of the English teacher.

I even learned to fear the books that I knew my students would actually care about because I knew I would be accused of robbing my high school students’ innocence as we read The Color Purple, or heaven forbid, Margaret Atwood. So instead, I carried along with the cult classics, which are ripe with depth and beauty, but often lose the reluctant readers with its complex language and cumbersome descriptions.

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However, I knew that if students read Toni Morrison or Rupi Kaur that they would have visceral responses and our discussions about the state of humanity would be urgent and important. Suddenly, English class would matter to them. They would be talking about it outside of class and grappling with the harsh realities that exist. Last year, I chickened out of The Color Purple in AP Lit and left it as an option for students. Sure enough, the students who picked that book devoured it in one sitting, contemplating abuse, spirituality, and identity. It shocked them. It mattered to them. And in a world where half the population can retweet #metoo, shouldn’t we let them talk about it?

 

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In fact, as I am writing these questions, I am pausing, backspacing, second guessing. What if I get in trouble for this? For maintaining my own personal blog? Outside of school, am I allowed to be a normal person? With thoughts and opinions? Or am I confined to being a calm voice of neutrality both in and outside of the classroom?

I think the right answer is the latter. But I can’t do it. In trying to prove I am a neutral teacher at all times in my life, from the hallways of school to the aisles of the grocery store, I have lost my voice. 

I’m afraid to say anything.
I don’t want to upset the multitudes of people that I know will disagree with me.
I don’t want to validate rumors of my political affiliations.
I don’t want to be accused of all of these falsehoods because students actually thought about something that mattered, even if it was controversial.
And somewhere along this list of fears, I forgot that I just want to be me. 

And “me” means that I cannot stifle my thoughts and my opinions when I am boiling at the injustices around me. I can be the consummate professional the 10 hours I spend at work, but at some point, in some place, I have to be myself again. For fear of students or parents stumbling across this blog and being offended by what they see, I lost any outlet for me to voice who I am and what I believe in the place that I created for that purpose. My mouth has been duct taped shut.

So every time I feel the familiar seize of words bubbling up on the latest political drama or the harrowing experience at work, I remember I cannot write about that. Because I have to be perfectly neutral at all times. I cannot offend anyone. I have to be Perfect Alexa.

So instead I try to write some safe, non-offensive piece (as if that is possible in 2017) and find myself deleting every word in disgust. Then, I will start aggressively tapping my keyboard in response to the latest incident of police brutality, and conversely, deleting every word.

So,

That’s why I stopped writing.

That’s why I stopped smiling.

That’s why I stopped being me

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4 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Writing

  1. milehighnerd says:

    You know what, I appreciate your honesty, but really we need teachers like you out there. Someone who is willing to take a risk and discuss these topics with these kids, get them thinking. Keep it up.

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  2. antoinedsaintexupery says:

    Never lose your voice. I love that you keep your personal blog up. I am always anxious to read the next post. You are one if not the best teacher I have ever had, if you stop writing and if you lose your voice, what will I do?

    Like

  3. Alexandra Wolfsbane says:

    Remember what you taught us, Ms. Brooks! You were always pushing us to participate and contribute in our discussions & you strived to bring us out of our shells. You always wanted us to say what we were thinking, even if we thought it was dumb or unimportant. You helped me become more confident in my opinions, even if they were controversial or a little scary to say because they included “God” in them… but you made your classroom a safe space because we both know the world isn’t, but you prepared us to gain confidence so that we could walk out into this scary world and still not be afraid to speak up. YOU taught us all that. It came from you. You have it in you, so please don’t stifle it! You made me become a better writer and still make me want to become even better, as great as you. You are truly such a beautiful woman, Ms. Brooks, and you show it in the words you write.You probably already have a journal, but maybe take baby steps and at least write what you really want to say somewhere, if not publicly. You don’t have to keep it inside, that gets too hard, I know. 💞

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  4. hansonsn says:

    So I know that I was probably not supposed to read this, but oh well. Ms. Brooks, I hope you know how endlessly appreciative I am for everything that you have taught me and done for me. You have been my favorite teacher since freshman year and that is not because of the “perfect” teacher and person you try to be in the classroom; you have been my favorite teacher because of the voice that you are trying to hide. I have loved all of the times that I have talked to you and been able to get to know you more outside of just being a teacher and hear that incredible voice come out. You have been such a rock and support system for me and I cannot express how much that has meant. You have helped me to grow both as a student and as a person. It has been especially important for you to cultivate discussion this year because we will be going out into the “real world” next year and trying to shelter us from opposing viewpoints helps no one. Never let the fear of what other students might say stop you. The senior boys are a bunch of ignoramuses and will always find something to go on a diatribe about. Be you, because the you that I know does not deserve to be hidden. The real you is beautiful. The real you is wonderful. The real you is loved.

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