Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.
In this edition, WoFo features art teacher, artist and social activist Robt Seda-Schreiber. I would like to thank Robt for his interview, his dedication to the teaching profession and his courage to promote social change.
“Don’t ever, ever make someone feel wrong or shamed for who they are or who they love…”
Besides being a teacher Robt Seda-Schreiber is….
A lover; a pacifist & fighter; an avowed solipsist; a hustler of culture; an A+ son, a B+ husband & a C+ father; a tiny dancer; an imaginary boxer; a “Champion of Equality” (thanks, NJEA!); a teller of both truth & foma in equal measure; a misanthropic humanist; an artist of some quality; a storyteller of great verbosity; a Courageous Cat (kudos, Kenneth Cole!); a tilter of both windmills & pinball machines; 日本の職人; colorblind & tone-deaf; a reluctant genius & an enthusiastic fool; a man of great fortune & good morals (tho’ sometimes both lapse on occasion); a friend to the friendless & voice for the voiceless; & (wait for it!) a Social Justice Activist
Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?
I teach at the Melvin H. Kreps Middle School: in my art studio; at the theatre; in the hallways as well as the greater community. I teach Art & Theatre & have had the pleasure of doing so for almost twenty-five years now. I teach in the same school that I attended as a student & it is truly an honor & privilege to give back to this community that has given me so much.
What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?
Gonna’ cheat here & speak rather on the greatest lesson I was taught:
Few years back, I met Vincent V., a student at a neighboring school district, who because of his otherness was being bullied to the extent that he had to be home-schooled. I became his advocate & his family’s partner in a protracted legal battle with his district, resulting in him attending our school at that district’s expense. Whilst at our school, Vincent flourished: finally able to realize who he is & who she has always been. A life saved; a life realized: Vincent becomes Vee, our school’s first transgender student & she allows me the honor of helping her with that transition. Vee’s journey of self-realization is a tremendous gift to & a great lesson for our entire school & our greater community & to me personally: a concrete example of the power of outreach, an abstract made very concrete. She taught me & all those around her on a daily basis the true meaning of bravery & compassion & for that, I can never thank her enough.
If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?
Well, truth be told, my administration does a pretty wonderful job indeed, esp. our Principal Lori Stein but if I could run this town (as Jay-Z would say), I would, in no particular order, ask the kids & the teachers (& any parents who wanted to join us) to do a lil’ somethin’-somethin’ like this:
Take a communal walk; Read a comic book; Give the custodial staff the day off & clean the hallways ourselves; Take everyone out for lunch (vegetarian style of course!); Dance; Share one photo that makes you smile; End the day in contemplation & appreciation of what has come before & what has yet to arrive
If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?
Here I go cheating again & am doubling my quota of quotes:
“Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.” -Lao Tzu, “Tao Te Ching”
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer & cold in the winter. It’s round & wet & crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies- God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” -Kurt Vonnegut
If you weren’t a teacher; what would you be?
A guy who would constantly be asked & then subsequently warned, “What are you doing in this classroom & if you don’t leave the premises immediately, we’re going to have to call the authorities!”
What advice would you give to all new teachers?
Every moment counts, every word matters, both in & outside the classroom.
Please challenge yourselves as much as you challenge others.
Always try first to fight for something rather than fighting against something.
Remember to thrive & not just survive.
Don’t ever, ever make someone feel wrong or shamed for who they are or who they love; for the color of their skin or the texture of their hair; for the language they speak or the religion they practice (or indeed the lack thereof); for the gender with which they identify or name they choose to use; for the ideas they hold dear or the lives they choose to lead… & don’t ever, ever stand idly by & let anyone else do so.
Remember light will always dispel the darkness & love does indeed trump hate. The world can & will change—it’s entirely up to you whether you want to watch it happen or be the one who makes it happen. You cannot move forward without knowing where you are going & who you can bring with you; without seeing what is in front of you & what you can do to change it for the better. For all of us.
Eyes clear, hearts full, & minds free- boots on the ground.
Last but not least, as my man Chuck D would say, “Fight the Power. Fight the powers that be!”
If the best thing about teaching is the students; what’s the second best thing?
The great pay, of course! (& by that, of course, I mean karmically, not financially…)
Who inspires you?
My wonderful folks showed me the path, my lovely bride holds my hand as I walk it, & my talented son shows me the horizon. My parents taught me love & respect for all, my wife helps me put it into practice, & my boy carries it upward & onward. I have always been inspired by those who speak out & allow others to rise up within their own communities. When one group overcomes injustice & inequality, it is a victory for us all. Whether it be MLK, Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Dolores Huerta, Muhammad Ali, Keith Haring, Kurt Vonnegut, or David Letterman, these men & women were true to themselves & true to their communities. They inspire all of us to be the best that we can be.
Finally, much respect & love to my administration, my colleagues, my students & the community at large in which I work. This oh-so-supportive crew have been nothing but encouraging throughout the years & I truly couldn’t do the do I do without them.
My classroom superpower is…
The power of flight… of fancy.
Check out more of Robt’s artwork at his webpage Arty Goodness.
Lean more about Robt’s social activism and help him win the NEA Social Justice Activist of the Year Award!
Thanks for checking out this edition of Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series!
Do you know an awesome educator who makes school an exciting adventure? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on the Teacher Spotlight Series. Contact Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.