During my third year of teaching, I had the following quote on my wall: “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
On the second or third day of school, we talked about what it meant. After all, I worked at a pretty poor school known by many community members for being semi-rough. My students and I talked about the value of ignoring other people’s opinions when those opinions are negative or unconstructive or unhelpful, of focusing primarily on us.
After the discussion, I acknowledged who said it: Rupaul Andre Charles, better known as drag queen RuPaul.
Although most of my urban students didn’t know who RuPaul was, I did and that was what mattered.
Although not formally a teacher per se, RuPaul is “Headmaster” of Drag U on the Logo network. His mission is to “put drag queens’ heads on biological women’s bodies so they can let the world have it!” RuPaul and her professors of drag teach women how to embrace who they are… whether they are
mothers who have always put everyone else first,
and they teach them how to move forward from their former identity and “werk it.” Appropriately, this is the call of the Magical Teacher. Students come in with painful memories and pleasurable experiences that make them who they are. But if we, as teachers, can’t model what that means to be fully human in the midst of those experiences—then we can’t expect them to do the same thing.
“But it’s hard!” a woman featured on the show cries as she realizes she will have to perform a choreographed dance to “Queen of Disco” Donna Summer’s classic “Hot Stuff” wearing 5 inch heels and a taffeta dress that bunches.
Let. The World. Have. It.
“I can’t do this!” an 8th grader lashes out, snapping a new pencil in half as he struggles to write even the most basic, formulaic paragraph. He still has two more to do and the semester is ending next week.
You can do it. (Not as catchy as “Let. The World. Have. It”, but hey, he got a new pencil and finished the paragraph.)
RuPaul teaches women about the hidden ‘glamazon’ inside them.
For all analogous purposes, that’s what I strive to teach my students. So yeah: drag queen as teacher? Absolutely.
Evin Shinn is a reality television connoisseur who teaches middle school Language Arts and AVID as a side job. Besides knowing who was voted off the island or received the last rose, Evin balances life by renewing his faith, developing his friendships, focusing on his fitness, and becoming a champion teacher and role model for his 7th and 8th graders. An advocate of students learning core knowledge, Evin believes the Myth of the Magical Teacher isn’t a myth at all—it happens everyday in classrooms around the world. You can find out how he wants education to change at talkingabouttyee.wordpress.com or follow his life on Instagram or Twitter.