Since the beginning of October, I have been engaged in a self-created protest movement of 2.5 people. Movements of 2.5 people generally don’t get much attention but this movement has garnered a lot of interest because it has turned me into someone who looks like a cross between theUnabomber and Abolitionist John Brown. This look is not going to get me a modeling contract or put me on the cover of GQ, but it could land me on the cover of Guns and Ammo.
The rules of this protest movement are simple: You cannot shave until the State of Washington restores the Cost of Living Adjustment passed by voters eight years ago. (That’s right, my day job is teaching. Don’t worry, I take my job very seriously and that is why I never write about it on my blog: A rule that I am currently breaking, so can I be trusted?) The past eight years have been frustrating because we have received the COLA one time in the eight years. (Our insurance company also knew when we got the COLA and raised their rates to eat all of it up.) This frustration as been simmering for a few years and in October I decided to start a moronic protest movement. Two of my colleagues joined me in this social experiment and most of us have followed the rules. (One of the protesters says he didn’t understand that not shaving meant not trimming the beard also. He is now the .5 member of the protest movement. He is also single and lives with a cat. His lack of commitment knows no bounds.)
I have fully committed and have grown a disgusting neck beard that can only be described as good place for Frodo Baggins to hide. The other full-time member of the movement has been ordered by his wife to shave his neck, but he can now curl his mustache like a WW1 German General which gives him a special look of crazy.
The movement has had its difficulties, like last night as I was trying to fall asleep my beard was making it tough for me to find a comfortable spot on the old pillow. I started wondering why the hair on the top of my head could go through life so unnoticed, while the hair on my chinnie-chin-chin does everything possible to remind me that I have ventured off the path of normalcy.
Eating has presented itself with a pile of problems that can only be solved by destroying four napkins at each meal. Even drinking coffee has its challenges, which lead me to my first rule change: It’s okay to trim the old mustache if it gets in the way of drinking coffee. Sometimes the Utilitarian approach to protest is best. Gandhi ate Swedish Fish during his self-imposed fast. (This is a lie.) Martin Luther King Jr. wore orthopedic inserts in his shoes while walking to Selma. (Not true, as far as I know.) Caesar Chavez hitched a ride some of the way on his walk to Sacramento. (Not really.)
Do I really think my beard is going to make a difference? No, but there is a part of me that wishes I had started growing this thing seven years ago so it would be a visual representation of how long it has been since the teachers in this state have been fairly compensated for their work. I won’t go on a rant and list all of the additional expectations the state has placed on teachers in those seven years, but let me just say that my wages have remained exactly the same for seven years while my job has become increasingly difficult. I know my co-workers appreciate my beard. It might be a beacon of stupidity, but it is a beacon.
I love my job. I do think it is my “calling” (at least it got me out of the family profession of Presbyterian minister), and good teachers know the job is not a paycheck. We know that there is no more precious resource than children. We know our jobs hold a special responsibility and we must be good close to 100% of the time. I also know that teaching high school English isn’t about getting all the commas in the right spot (shout out to Holden Caulfield); teaching is about relationships. Students learn best when they feel safe, loved, and valued.
Packing a classroom with 35 kids and one bearded crazy man may not be ideal, but if the crazy man thinks growing a beard can make legislators follow the law, imagine what he can get those 35 kids to believe about themselves.
Keep Hope Alive!