Feeling uncomfortable as an atheist, it was a feeling I never really expected and am pretty sure that I don’t like! And it is happening as part of a job that I love dearly. I have a tremendous passion for mathematics and all of its inherent qualities. Among those qualities are critical thinking, evidence, abstract thought, and actually getting answer that is right or wrong even though you don’t have to follow the shortest path to get there.
I am an avid teacher, not only of math, but of life. At the time I started teaching, my journey into atheism was still in its infancy. I had read god is not great by the amazing Christopher Hitchens, Hitchens was a true firebrand atheist and his style appealed to me. I also read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, a much different style than Hitchens, but never holding anything back. Since that time I am still an atheist and outspoken about it, but I am also a humanist and always have been. Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, made the Don’t be a Dick speech and it is a constant reminder of how we can learn and teach.
Now, as a teacher in the United States and a true believer of the constitution, I looked to make a separation of my personal views and not discuss them with students during the school day or a school function. As much as I would like to have a captive audience and be a firebrand atheist, my values and ethics stop me from doing this. I have read about Hemant Mehta’s approach to this when he is asked by a student about his views, his reply? “Haven’t done your homework have you?” I am not Hemant, we have totally different personalities and I don’t believe I could just deflect the question like that, it is not me. I certainly would never initiate the conversation. I would say that this has been more or less successful.
I have now moved on to another high school, for a multitude of reasons, being the Varsity Lacrosse Coach the primary one. I had no idea how different the new school would be to my original. IThe demographics of the schools match up fairly well so I wasn’t expecting anything different. However, I have seen something different, the population of the school is more religious than I had ever anticipated and as a result, I feel uncomfortable at times. I truly should have known something was up when my team huddled up to pray before several games, hint, it didn't work. I would just turn around and
get my game face on cry a little bit on the inside. It is so strange. I am doing nothing different, but am aware of
looks or side conversations, but nothing substantial.
Let me start by saying, I’m so impressed with the parental involvement at my school, it is incredible to see so much. I never would have dreamed it possible, but it is awesome. I am the freshman class sponsor at the school, and as such, I have responsibilities for the class that meet outside of the school environs. My car is labeled with my personal beliefs, humanism, atheism, etc. The parents see this, the students say this, they do not say anything, there is nothing malicious, but there are times I see a look or glance. Could I be paranoid? Possibly, but I don’t think so.
Will I change? Should I say something? (I’m thinking not). In the meantime, I’ll continue to be the best teacher I can be, teaching my students, my children to be cool to each other, if they can’t learn the math, perhaps they can learn to be decent to each other.