I’ve been reflecting a lot lately as I think about the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movement. Though I’ve chosen to remain pretty quiet on this for my own personal reasons, I do feel it time to speak up as an educator, to share a just a bit of the “me too” moments that I’ve learned about in my classroom.
- To the senior male student during my student-teaching semester who told me to “get on my knees and beg for it” and continued to harass me both publicly and privately, time’s up. To my younger self, I am sorry that I brushed it away, embarrassed and concerned that it was my fault for bringing this type of attention to myself. I should have known this was not your fault and told my coordinating teacher sooner.
- To the older male student who cornered and groped a younger female student while at school, right under our very noses, only to be told to me in confidence years later, time’s up. To this student, I am sorry that I did not know, that I didn’t see the signs, and that in a place you should have felt safe, you were not. I wish I could have protected you.
- To the adult male professional whose inappropriately lingering eyes, physical proximity, and comments towards my female student (a minor) on a school tour made not only her uncomfortable, but other students around, time’s up. To this student, I am so sorry that I was silent, that I didn’t stop the tour right then and there, that I didn’t tell you how wrong this was, that I didn’t tell you the follow-up steps I took, so that you would know you were not alone and that you had my full support in taking action.
- To the male student who continued to get in my space and tell me his thoughts on my body, my physical appearance and my smell, only to be dismissed by my administrator as my own overreaction and that he was simply seeking attention, time’s up. To my younger self, I am sorry that you did not have the support from your administrator, that you were told it was no big deal, and that you were alone.
- To the adult male who attempted rape on my middle school student in her own home, only for her to remain silent for over two months about it, only to later write it in a journal entry to me after she could not contain the secret anymore, time’s up. To this student, I am sorry that you learned to early in life that you were not safe, that you felt shame, that you did not want to hurt your family, and that you were not protected in your own home. I am sorry that when I called CPS, they told me they would do all that they could but that these cases happen all the time and that unfortunately, because it was an unsuccessful attempt, that it might not ever be investigated. I am sorry that your parents had no idea and I am sorry for the hurt they felt, knowing they could not protect their thirteen year old daughter from a stranger in their apartment building.
- To the adult male who sexually assaulted his younger sibling, from the time she was four on, with parents who looked the other way and did not believe her when she told them, time’s up. To this student, I think of you often. I wonder if my multiple calls to CPS created safety for you. I am sorry that your own mother did not believe you and continued to allow you to be in the presence of your brother. I am sorry for the hurt you experienced and that I had no words when we cried together. I hope you believe me that you did nothing to deserve this, that you aren’t ruined, and that there is hope for your future, sweet girl.
These are a few of the “me toos” I’ve encountered in my nine years of teaching and I would be foolish to think that these were all of them; sadly, I know there are probably many more “me toos” that have not been shared, that have not been acknowledged, that have not been stopped.
I cannot say I have any profound conclusions as a result of my time reflecting. I can say that I am angry at myself for the times I should have done more, I am frustrated with myself that I cannot seem to stop these things from happening, and I am both sad and terrified for the unknown realities that my students still face today.
As much as I want students to know they can always come to me and that I will do everything I can to make them safe, more than anything, I long for the day when there won’t be any “me toos” to share, no “times up” to be had. I long for the day when my students can be safe, when sexual harassment and assault will not be silenced, normalized, or justified, and I long for the day when “me too” can truly be a thing of the past.
To these students and to my former self, I am sorry. I promise I will do better to speak out, to provide safety and shelter, and to work to make this world a better one for each and every one of you.