Mislabeling sex workers and addressing sexual misconduct between students

Earlier this week, I wrote about sex worker rights and coronavirus and the ensuing racism. Today, I’m continuing to explore those topics.

There is a new article on The Lily that is personal to me. It asks how do we respond to sexual misconduct between students. I’ve thought this as a teacher receiving threats and witnessing threats between students. I have not seen a satisfactory way to deal with it. Schools prefer to pretend that it doesn’t happen altogether. So, I’m very glad this article at least acknowledges the fact that it happens and we don’t know the correct way to resolve it.

A 4th grader was threatened with rape by classmates. She was told to ‘stay away’ from the boys.

When I was teaching 4th grade, there was a lot of bullying between students in my class. Now that I am not working in elementary education, I can talk freely about it:

The discipline policy in schools often punishes good students and rewards bad behavior. (Whether there are “bad students/children” or just “bad behavior” is another topic!)

Full disclosure: As a teacher, I did not know what was the right way to handle threats toward myself or between students. It’s not something I’ve ever been trained on. School administration gives no directions on how teachers should respond when they get threats in the classroom.

To me, it seemed that the school did not want to address that it was happening at all. PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) was about “providing support and preventing unwanted behaviors.” But clearly, unwanted behaviors were already occurring.

The result is a lot of victim blaming and asking “What did you do to provoke them?” It’s no surprise that it’s the same response that victims of sexual misconduct hear in the adult world.

There is no “magic age” that makes kids old enough to take full responsibility for incidents of sexual abuse, said Stone. But for elementary-school aged students, schools should assume kids don’t really understand what they’ve done. When a 5-year-old pulls down his pants on the playground, for example, it’s clearly very different from when a high-schooler does the same thing, said Martin.

I definitely do not wish any child to go into the court system or get sucked into the cycle of recidivism. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem right that boys’ and girls’ harmful actions toward others go unaddressed, even if they’ve experienced it themselves.

The question becomes, how do we teach children what sexual misconduct is and why it’s wrong? After all, adults are supposed to know better and children are counting on us. When we pretend sexual misconduct doesn’t happen in school, we are letting down students who then have to carry the burden of hurt and harassment, as well as students who never learn that sexual misconduct is wrong and go on to do more of it.

‘Conflating Sex Work And Trafficking Is Harmful. We Need To Stop’

There is a really great human rights blog called EachOther. They have a series on sex work, and one article talks about not lumping all sex workers into helpless victims who got into sex work through trafficking.

Human trafficking is a horrific human rights violation that utilises threats, force, abduction, deception and coercion in order to control people and exploit them.

Sex work is a consensual transaction between adults. For many sex workers, this is their only means of survival.

They are different. Sex work, by its nature, happens in the shadows. But there is a world of difference between selling nudes on social media and working in a brothel and being a slave. When prostitution abolitionists talk about sex workers as all the same, it becomes even more harmful to them.

If sex workers feel so persecuted and judged that they don’t even disclose what they do to the most trusted profession in the world, we need to ask ourselves what we’re doing wrong.

Sex trafficking victims are not prostitutes by choice.

Sex workers are not all helpless victims.

If we really want to help victims of sex trafficking, let’s not talk about all sex workers as if they are in the same situation. They are not.

Explainer: Seven ways the coronavirus affects human rights

Coronavirus is a public health concern, but it also demonstrates why human rights are a MUST. It seems strange to have to prove the need for human rights, yet it’s an ongoing struggle in 2020.

Amnesty International talks about how “Human rights violations hinder, rather than facilitate, responses to public health emergencies, and undercut their efficiency.”

  1. Early censorship
  2. The right to health
  3. The censorship continues
  4. Activists harassed and intimidated
  5. Regional crackdown on “fake news”
  6. Discrimination and xenophobia
  7. Border controls and quarantines must be proportionate

We have to continue struggling for human rights, because it is literally a life-or-death situation. Even if my rights are not being violated, the effects are much closer than they appear to be.

Keep struggling and connecting with one another! Building connections and community is how we resist. ✊💛

Education, success, and J. K. Rowling

Welcome to my second TED talk! Today I will be talking education, success, and having your J. K. Rowling moment in life.

The author of Harry Potter gave a commencement speech at Harvard, and this quote has always stood out to me from that speech:

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

How assuring it is to know that. It isn’t the same thing as “Things can’t get any worse,” which has made me feel sore. I’m learning what J. K. Rowling means is that the fact you have nothing can actually help you. Let rock bottom be your asset and strength.

Here, I will share my story. I spent years and a lot of money to become a teacher. I spent a lot of money taking tests, going to school, getting gas so that I could commute to school, and moving so that I could pursue teaching positions. I spent a lot of time doing everything that teachers are expected to do. All in all, teaching is an incredibly expensive endeavor in terms of money and time.

But that is not the worst part. When I became a teacher, I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. It felt like all of my best qualities–being personable, creative, passionate, kind, and accepting–did not help me at all. In fact, they hurt me. They made a subpar teacher and I struggled with getting students to listen to and respect me. I had a hard time with administrators and coworkers. Yet, I felt like I had to “work through” this because my parents wouldn’t let me quit, and because I had already spent so much on teaching. It made me extremely miserable until one day, I took the plunge, called my principal on the phone, and resigned from my job.

This is the cliche part of the story, where people say “When one door closes, another opens.” But I closed the door myself, and there isn’t another open. I’m just in the hallway, locked out but not having another room to go to.

In the past, I’ve always made sure I have one job or school lined up before one ended. Doors closing have never really bothered me because I knew where I’d go next. For the first time, I didn’t. At the moment, I’m not successful by any means. I’m at the least successful point in my life but I feel really happy with myself. Being compassionate is no longer a flaw. Being me, is alright.

At the same time, I start reaching out to editors and book people I follow on Twitter. The funny thing is that I never would’ve gotten on Twitter if it weren’t for this last job I had, where the school district required everyone to get a Twitter account. I came for the job and I stayed for my love of reading. Then I started following, commenting, and DMing these readers and authors and it’s been the best thing ever! I feel like there are people like me, and they have grown-up jobs doing what they love. It. Is. Possible!!!!!

My world started to open up because I’m finding so many connections, articles, books, and TV shows that speak to me. It’s like the things that have always existed, but I didn’t notice or was ignoring, are coming to the surface.

Recently, I talked to an editor, Cheryl Klein. I did a little research and found one of her talks, another convocation speech. In it, she talks about the idea of “the wand choosing the wizard,” and how the best time to move is when you have nothing. I’m not tied down by marriage, family, or a career. In this way, all of my past failures and breakups have actually given me the freedom to get up and pursue my dreams.

But, my experience has also shown me that I’m going to struggle a lot and have a hard time. I’m going to. I’m going to have to start at the beginning. There isn’t a shortcut just because I’ve worked and people are not necessarily going to care that I’ve been a teacher.

No matter how much writing I had done, I hadn’t done this before, and the only way to do it was to start at the beginning. Just like everybody else.

It’s not really logical to step away from job security and a salaried job, especially one as stable as teaching. But I know I am not alone. This is the right choice and rather than seeing myself as being too weak or not able to hack teaching, I see it as having the courage to step away what isn’t right for me to go for what might be right. I don’t need to know and no one gets to tell me “I told you so,” because it is all unknown. EVEN IF someday I go back to teaching/a desk job/cashiering, there is absolutely no shame in that because it is my choice. Plus, how could there be shame in working? People get to change their minds and circumstances change. I am done with shame!

My life now makes far more sense than it ever has. My therapist said that when you are doing what aligns with your values, the universe will start to expand and doors will open. (Feels, I know!)

I want to end with a video from Tiffany Young, a former k-pop singer I’ve followed for 10 years now. She inspires me because she left a very very successful career in Korea and came back to the U.S. to start over. At age 29, she is living her best life and starting as a “new” singer. I just love everything about this. You don’t need to be 18 to start a career. Sometimes, the right choice is leaving behind something that isn’t working and starting over. AND, the best part is, you don’t need to be immediately successful. The older I get, the more I realize there is no rush. I am going to be here as long as I am here, and I want to live my fullest and highest-quality life rather than rushing and fearing what happens.

Thank you for coming to my second TED talk! I love you all. Live your best life.

Teaching and learning

I left teaching in February and it was probably one of the biggest decisions of my life. Like all big decisions, the consequences are huge. But as I reflect on my posts about food, I realized something else.

One of my teacher mentors, Ann, told me that to become a better teacher, she puts herself in the role of a learner a lot. For example, she takes yoga classes and thinks about how she would want the teacher to help her or push her. That has stayed with me. (Ann says so many wise things. She’s had a huge influence on me. Thank you Ann Wilson!!!!)

I’m no longer a teacher, but I still like to put myself in the role of the learner. It’s a little different from simply taking a bunch of classes or being a student. And I’m not doing it to earn a degree. I like when teaching and learning is very personal or in small groups.

Some of my favorite learning experiences as an adult:

  • Yoga class with Carrie. My instructor had a home studio, a garage that she converted. I loved it because it was so personal, the group classes consisted of regulars, and it was just the best yoga experience. It definitely made yoga into a practice for me.
  • Yoga via YouTube videos with Adrienne. I moved out of Carrie’s area, so I could no longer afford classes or find a yoga community (I was commuting and had no time for evening classes anymore.) I still wanted to practice yoga, and I’m able to do so
  • Cooking class at Hipcooks. I’ve been describing them in my food posts.
  • Painting classes at Paint and Sip. I loved the painting classes there! Justin is a great teacher. He is so kind and I really enjoyed painting there.
  • Crafting workshops at Paper Source. I love explicit and detailed instruction so this class is very fun! I learn to make my own greeting cards.

I realize that to be able to take all these classes is a huge luxury and privilege. Not every can afford it in terms of money and time. There is no way I would be able to indulge in these if I had a family to support or a really demanding job. However, I want to say that I am not making a lot of money, and I find ways to support these hobbies.

For example, practicing yoga through YouTube videos is free. You only need Internet connection, a screen, and space & yoga mat!

There are many workshops at local libraries too. They are free!

I’m able to take cooking classes by assisting the teacher and volunteering to wash dishes. I’ve been able to “take” classes for free by being there and assisting. Really, the amazing thing about the Internet is that there are so many podcasts, videos, and tutorials that are available if you really want to learn. I just want to say that learning doesn’t stop once you are out of school, but it is a huge time and money investment if you choose to take classes. One day, I might pick up adult music lessons too.

I’m a really big proponent of adult learning!