In the run-up to Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum on May 22nd, I’ve invited a series of guest posters– people from Ireland or who live here, of many different backgrounds and orientations- to share their thoughts on the referendum, the campaign, and what it means to them. Contributions to Guest Posts for Equality are welcome- drop me a message.
Unfortunately I can’t give you a bio for this piece’s author. He has kept his name from this article both because he wants to maintain his practice of not expressing his opinions through his professional identity and because, sadly, due to Section 37 it is still inadvisable to come out when you’re a teacher without job security.
I am a teacher. I help young people to develop and grow, to recognise their strengths and to become the brilliant people they can be. To say I love this work is a massive understatement. I have met vastly different kinds of young people, all unique and all with different strengths and talents. It has been an honour to be their teacher.
In this role, I have many responsibilities. For example, in helping my students to develop as their own people, it is not my job to impart my views and opinions to them and expect them to fall in line. As such, I never discuss my politics or my personal life in class, as is proper. Separately, I’m a gay man. Needless to say I have personally found the run-up to this referendum hard. I expected that. I didn’t expect to find it hard as a teacher, but then I learned about the “Teachers for No” group set up on 14 May.
One of the primary responsibilities of a teacher is to care. To foster a safe environment for their students, to accept and embrace diversity as represented through the individuals they teach, and to allow those young people to develop and grow in a warm, accepting environment.
It is not to create an atmosphere wherein even one of their students is made to feel second-class because of who they are. Choose any ten schools at random and look at their mission statements. You’ll see messages about inclusion, safety and caring. This group represents none of those things. Like much of the No campaign all they represent is their own discomfort at a reality that they can no longer pretend isn’t there.
Objectivity is important, but even casting aside my own personal reasons for opposing the No campaign, the effect of their message and its tone on young people is abhorrent. These people claim to be standing up for children. They are not. They stand up for a dying era in Irish history which saw untold suffering in so many different ways, and standing against a better future for many of the young people they have the responsibility to care for.
These people are not teachers.