A part-time Florida high school music teacher has run afoul of the school district because he is baring his bottom in a community theater production of "The Full Monty."
Jason Brenner, 28, said Tuesday that he refused to quit the show at the Venice Little Theatre despite receiving a letter from the school district last week with the ultimatum that he either cover up, withdraw from the show or resign his job at Lemon Bay High School.
It's easy to understand the district's prime motivation for this, that teachers are role models for their communities and their impressionable students, and ought to be held to higher standards than others, but I'm not too convinced that stifling this teacher's creativity and chosen form of expression is the right thing to do.
Inside of the classroom, Brenner's bare bottom act will have little impact on his lesson plans and his ability to teach. After all, teaching musical theory is independent of a teacher's proclivities to wearing underoos in public. Unless there were a real concern that a teacher's outside activities were preventing effective teaching, such as by contributing stress and mental/emotional distress to his lifestyle, the district should not be making an issue out of the situation.
As a role model in his school, what is the harmful message he is sending his students? Follow your passions and refuse to let social norms tie up your ambitions? Self-expression is an ongoing lesson in the life of a teenager, and just as it is important to encourage creativity in writing, teachers need also encourage creativity in action, and expression in movement. Having a unique voice and the courage to express oneself is exactly the kind of lesson students need to be hearing, to promote future self-aware citizens that are willing to speak up for their values, and teachers like Brenner are apt to give it to them.
Outside of school as a community role model, Brenner deserves some praise. He's willing to follow his passions and expose himself on stage, figuratively as an actor and literally as a naked, naked man, despite his job: he hangs around teenagers all day long. Teenagers that would likely find it very, very humorous to see their teacher prancing around naked. This man chose to endure possible ridicule by the sneers and jeers of his students for months, and he took a big chance with the trust of his students' parents, as trust does not come easy for teachers. Yet he is still taking that chance. His passion and determination are exceptional traits for others to emulate.
Teachers like Brenner, who passionately indulge in productive hobbies and know the importance of self-expression and the virtue of motivation, need to be supported and rewarded for their influence in our communities. Music lessons only go so far--encouraging character development impacts students for life.