How did this happen?
It was only three and a half years ago that I sat down at my computer and decided to write my first blog.
And now I’ve got a book coming out from Garn Press – “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform.”
Like the title says, I’m just a public school teacher. I’m not important enough to write a book.
A blog? Sure. That could disappear any day now.
All it would take is WordPress deleting the site or maybe the power goes out and never comes back or a zombie apocalypse or who knows…
But a book. That’s kinda’ permanent.
It has mass and takes up space.
That won’t just poof out of existence if someone unplugs the wrong server.
It would take some sort of conscious effort for a book to go away. People would have to actively work to destroy it. They’d have to pile those rectangular paper bundles in a fire pit, douse them in gasoline and light a match.
Otherwise, they’d just maybe sit in a basement somewhere in boxes, unopened and collecting dust.
Or could it really be that people might actually crack the spine and read the things?
It’s a strange sort of birth this transition from cyberspace to 3-dimensional reality.
And it’s about to transpire with selected bits of my writing.
I am flabbergasted. Shocked. Almost in denial that this is really happening.
Did I mention that I’m a public school teacher? No one is supposed to listen to us.
School policy is made without us. Decisions impacting our kids and our careers are made by people who haven’t seen the classroom in years – if ever. And when we politely raise our hands to let people know that something isn’t working, the best we can hope for is to be ignored; the worst is to be bullied into silence.
Yet my blog has 1,184,000 hits. I’ve got 12,545 followers on Twitter and via email. And now – a book.
So, let me propose a theory: the people at Garn Press are just incredibly nice.
Denny, David and Benjamin Taylor are just fulfilling one of those Make a Wish thingies for a downtrodden soul like me.
Maybe I’ve got some sort of debilitating disease and no one’s told me yet.
The book officially comes out on Nov. 28. So when I’m handed my first actual copy, I’d say it’s even money that the next thing I’ll be handed is some medical document showing I only have moments left to live.
I’ll die with a smile on my face.
It reminds me of a few lines from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451:
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
In my 40-some years, I’ve tried to do that. I’ve tried to make some lasting mark on the world. Tried to leave it a better place than I found it.
I started as a journalist.
It was great! I could shake up a whole community just by writing something, uncovering some hidden truth, asking a tough question.
But I needed to eat, too, and you can’t do that when you’re on call 24-hours a day for nearly minimum wage under the constant threat of downsizing and meddling by the publisher and advertisers.
So I got my masters degree and became a school teacher.
And it’s been great! I can alter the course of a child’s entire life by helping her learn to read, encouraging her to write and getting her to think and ask questions.
But I’m under constant threat by bureaucrats who know nothing about pedagogy and child psychology trying to force me to do things in ways I know are wrong, detrimental or prejudicial.
So I became an activist, too.
And it’s been great. I joined groups of likeminded individuals and we took to the streets and the legislature and lawmakers offices and parent meetings and teachers conferences and just about anywhere you could stir things up and get people to start asking the right questions.
That led directly to the blog and now the book.
So what’s in it?
In short, it’s my hand-selected favorite articles. These are the ones that either got the most readers or that have a special place in my heart or both.
And this summer I sat at my kitchen table and intensively revised almost all of them. Even if you’ve read them before, these are definitive versions. In some cases, they’re considerably different than the versions you might still find up on-line.
Who did I write it for?
You, I hope.
But, if I’m honest, the people I most had in mind reading it were my daughter and my students.
One day my little girl will grow up and she may wonder what her old man thought about X, Y and Z.
What did Daddy think about racism? What did he think a good teacher did? What were his thoughts about politics, prejudice and reform?
I can see some of my students doing the same.
Perhaps I flatter myself that they may dimly remember me – their crazy 7th or 8th grade Language Arts teacher. I wonder what Mr. Singer would have said about… whatever.
I guess this is my way of telling them.
It’s a time capsule of my present day thoughts. And a guide for how to get to a better future.
You’re cordially invited to read it.
If you’re a longtime follower of this blog, let me just say – thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I never would have had the courage to continue without you.
If you’re new to my writing, welcome aboard. I hope I’ve given you reason to keep reading.
And I hope that one or two of you will be inspired to seek out a certain oblong bundle of papers wrapped in a blue and white cover proclaiming my undying, self-chosen, provocative descriptor:
Gadfly on the Wall.
(Oh! And a special shout out to Denisha Jones and Yohuru Williams for writing incredible introductions to the book! I am beyond honored!)