May the Fourth 2015: I am a Rebel.

She’s a Rebel and a traitor.  Take her away. – Darth Vader

iPad mini with Rebel Alliance sticker

iPad mini with Rebel Alliance sticker

On this May 4th, it’s time for me to admit it.  I am a Rebel.  I have been a Rebel my whole life, but the awareness of it kind of snuck up on me.

My Rebel status started when I was in middle school and decided to go off to boarding school.  Voluntarily.  Then my senior year of high school, I chose a women’s college (best decision ever), unlike the vast majority of my friends who punched their tickets for coed campuses.  In college I ended up double majoring in mathematics and art history, two disparite felds.  Upon graduating from college, I sought a high school math teaching job instead of rushing off to NYC to make it in the financial world.   But the biggest rebellion came when we made the decision to move to Mississippi 15 years ago so my husband could earn his masters.

Let’s just say that people’s comments were not supportive.  Even when I pointed out that people drive their trucks across the frozen lakes in New Hampshire to ice fish (and drink) all winter, this did not seem as backwoods as what they imagined life in Mississippi to be.

I landed in room 18 at Lafayette High School and have been here ever since.  For the first year I couldn’t understand most of my students, and not just because of their accents.  I didn’t get the appeal of hunting and football and all of this going to church (wasn’t once a week enough?). But mostly I couldn’t understand the appeal of the Confederate flag on wallets, t-shirts, and jewelry.   As someone raised in the northeast, the hatred and ignorance this symbol represented for me made my skin invert.  I asked a student fifteen years ago, “Why do you wear that?” And she said, “It’s the symbol of being a Rebel.”  I thought, this kid is not talking about the civil war or the civil rights movement, she is talking about being a teenager.  Like James Dean in Rebel without a Cause.  After I snapped this picture of a student in my classroom the other day, I asked him, “Why do you have that wallet?” He replied, “I don’t know, I just liked it.”  I thought, “Really?  You just like it?  It doesn’t have any deeper meaning than that?”

As seen in my classroom...

As seen in my classroom…

For this post I looked up the definition of “Rebel.”  The Rebel Alliance in Star Wars and the Confederate Army of the Civil War were both textbook rebels: persons who take up arms against an existing ruler or government.  Depending on what side you’re on, sometimes rebels are the good guys and sometimes they’re the bad guys.  The second definition that popped up is, “A rebel is a person who stands up for his or her own personal opinions despite what anyone says (urban dictionary).”  I feel like I definitely fit the second definition.  I have no problem speaking my mind on things about which I am passionate and knowledgeable (teaching and math are the two biggies).  Ask my principal.  

Maybe this is why I like Star Wars so much. Maybe I really identify with the fact that a small group of people (the Rebel Alliance) is standing up against a a big machine (the Evil Empire). Sometimes I feel that way — a lone voice crying out in the teaching wilderness against the Evil Empire of politicians and publishers.  I feel so many times like a voice crying out in the wilderness when it comes to decisions made in this country by people who know very little, if anything, about the reality of day to day teaching and learning.  

I live in the town where the University of Mississippi is.  In the past 15 years, many, if not all of the confederate imagery has been wiped from campus.  No more flags.  No more Colonel Reb.  No more Confederate Drive.  But one thing remains.  “I am a Rebel.”

Happy Star Wars Day.  May the Fourth be with you.  And may you, too, be a Rebel.