“There is more to hear in what is not said.”
― Joyce Rachelle
I prepared myself to read the Salt Lake Tribune article "A Utah Substitute Told Fifth Graders that Homosexuality is Wrong." In response to the question, "What are you thankful for this year?” one boy’s response was nothing but precious. “I’m thankful that I’m finally going to be adopted by my two dads.” ...Utah County. Oh boy... The response from the teacher was exactly why I felt the need to prepare myself. A lecture to the class that homosexuality is wrong; including the unimaginably inappropriate direct response to the boy. "That is nothing to be thankful for."
My heart sank. This is not about stance or beliefs with the controversial subject. It is about approach, it is about behavior, it is about mental health regardless of one’s particular views. Most in Utah County who I directly know are fairly advanced overall in this respect, so I expected some appropriate responses, but there is something the next two paragraphs that thrilled me to the core.
"Three girls asked her to stop multiple times. But she continued, so they walked out of the room to get the principal."
"As the substitute was escorted out of the building, she was still arguing, trying to make her point, the boy's fathers say they were told by school officials."
Let me voice the obvious goodness here. First of all, this boy is about to be adopted by two good men, in UTAH COUNTY! Not only that, this boy is in an environment where he felt safe enough and accepted enough already to voice this particular thanks.
Obvious kudos to those three girls. To recognize what was going on was inappropriate?
Check. To voice their opposition to the person in authority? Check. Multiple times? Check-times-three! Then to take action and to get the principal! I like what is implied here...they felt safe with the principal's expected response.
But then that gap. That beautiful gap hidden between the two paragraphs is where the real thrill is for me.
"As the substitute was escorted out of the the building"...wait, what?? *Big long unexpected breath* I laughed. I re-read it. No explanation of the principal's initial reaction? Nope. The progression of thinking it over and deciding on the correct response? Nope. Apparently, it was not needed by the author of this article. Not in this age. Not in my community.
Of course the teacher was not only excused, but escorted outside. A strict and public response that students come first.
So beautiful. So appropriate.
The lessons we learn from the mistakes and hurtful experiences many of us have experienced at the hands of someone like this substitute teacher have value. We must continue to share these truths. To share our stories. Sometimes I forget some people even listen. This community’s response to protect this boy’s joy inspires me to be thankful. Today I am thankful for where I live. Utah County listens. And I hear you!
Jennifer White, LCSW
Jennifer specializes in helping people with depression, anxiety, sexuality concerns, trauma, and faith transitions/journeys. She offers coaching/consultation and therapy services to individuals, couples and families.