MAGGIE- 40 something teacher.
Auditorium at a school.
A microphone on a stage.
MAGGIE, a proper woman in her forties dressed plainly comes up to the microphone. She looks around the room a moment to gauge the audience. Then she begins.
Hi. I wrote a statement and if it’s alright I’d like to read it before you all vote. A beat. She takes out a piece of paper, clears her throat and starts to read.
First off I’d like to thank the Saint Robert School parent teacher association for allowing me to speak. I would also like to thank you parents who have sacrificed your evening to participate in tonight’s vote.
I assume most of you know who I am by now, but for those who don’t, my name is Margaret Smith, or as my students refer to me, “Miss S”. For the past seven years I’ve taught the second grade here at Saint Roberts Elementary School and I’d like to take a moment to tell you about my methods as an educator. Beyond adhering to the curriculum requirements mandated by the state I strive to get my students to be mindful of the world around them. I want them not just to be successful inside the classroom, but outside of it as well. To do this I, on occasion, have my class read books which aim to teach fundamental life lessons. Last week we read such a book. “Skippy goes to the Vet.”
The story is simple. A puppy who you can guess is named “Skippy” isn’t feeling well. So Skippy’s owner, a little boy named Timmy, takes Skippy to the vet. Sadly the vet discovers that Skippy is quite sick, so Timmy says goodbye to Skippy, and Skippy is put to sleep.
When the story was finished, several students inquired as to the nature of Skippy’s sleep, which then lead to broader questions regarding the nature of all living things. Feeling that my students deserved the truth, I responded accordingly.
(Beat. She looks up from the paper.)
I told my second graders that someday they are all going to die.
(Pause. MAGGIE folds up the paper and puts it in her pocket.)
We all know how this is supposed to end. I finish my statement, say I’m sorry for telling your kids that they’re going to die, and then I take my seat and watch all of you vote to have me removed. But that’s not what’s going to happen. Because I’m not going finish my statement. And I’m not going to apologize. Because I have nothing to apologize for. I am a good teacher and I don’t deserve this treatment. So I quit.
MAGGIE turns to leave. She turns back to the mic.
What did I do that was so wrong? I told my students the truth about their existence. Did I go too far? Maybe. But were my actions worthy of this backlash? Hardly. You act like these kids don’t already know about death, but the video games they play? The TV shows they watch? At recess they run around the playground pretending to shoot each other. Last Halloween one of my students came to school dressed as Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. When I reported this to principal Patterson do you know what she told me? To be more culturally sensitive.
Ladies and gentlemen, the world is crumbling before our very eyes. Our politicians are bought by corporations who destroy the Earth, missiles fly between Israel and Palestine like they are playing a tennis match and it’s far easier to find pornography on the internet than it is to navigate health care dot gov.
But you see me as the “threat” to your children because I told them they will some day die?
Yesterday I found an anonymous note on my doorstep. It accused me of being insane. And delusional. Maybe I am. So I just want to say, as someone who is maybe both of those things, that you can all sincerely go fuck yourselves. To the helicopter moms who started the petition to have me removed, go fuck yourselves. To the teachers like Mister Robinson and Misses Kane who agree with me behind closed doors that this is complete bullshit but don’t have the balls to back me in public, go fuck yourselves. To Helga the lunch lady, who calls me derogatory Polish slurs every time she sees me because I once told her that she didn’t cook the pizza enough and that the dough was visibly raw, go fuck yourself. And most importantly, to Father Daniel, who has been looking for a reason to get rid of me ever since I refused his offer for a back massage in the faculty lounge, go fuck yourself you creepy piece of shit.
MAGGIE starts to walk off. She stops and returns.
I want you to know that I’m not upset about this. Really I’m grateful to all of you. I’ve been at this school seven years and in that time I have dedicated my life to your children. Answering their questions. Feeding their creativity. And it’s been really exhausting. Your kids are like lampreys. You know, the sea snake things that attach themselves to a host and feed off the host until the host dies. That’s what your kids have been to me. But now I am free.
I guess the question is, what am I going to do now? Teach at another school? After tonight I think that’s unlikely.
Truthfully I always wanted to write a novel, but I never had the courage to do it because my mother told me I didn’t possess a strong enough narrative voice. I think I do. I just haven’t known what to write about. But now I know. I’m going to write about all of you. I’m going to write about the truth you are all scared to face. That your children are already dead. Do you want to know why? Because you don’t allow them to experience things that are unpleasant. You do this because you fear unpleasant things will ruin them. But unpleasant things will not ruin them. What will ruin them is all of you continuing to use your every breath to tell them how special they are. Your kids are not special. They will not grow up to be astronauts or president. They will grow up to become victims of your poisonous fiction which tells them to feel good about themselves for doing absolutely nothing. And when your children reach adulthood and set out into the world on their own, reality will devour their dreams and leave them huddled on the ground shaking. And it will be your fault. I weep for all of you.
MAGGIE turns to walk off stage. She stops.
One final thing- End of the month progress reports for my class can be found in the top right drawer of my desk. Parents I think you’ll be pleased to see that for the most part your students scores increased by a full letter grade. That’s really impressive.
MAGGIE exits. Lights fade.