Open Book: June 2022
Q&A with Michael Surgeon
Michael Surgeon is a first-year 7th grade Language Arts teacher at Scenic Middle School.
What are your greatest challenges as an LGBTQIA+ teacher in the Rogue Valley?
I think the greatest challenge is just being out and openly queer as an educator. I have learned that I don’t have to live my life in fear anymore and I can be authentic with my students. Teach love not hate.
What is your favorite public library resource and why?
My favorite public library resources are Library2Go and Rogue Reads. I am also the number one fan of The Friends of the Medford Library Bookstore. They have wonderful books that I have added to my classroom library.
What changes do you see happening in public education in the next few years?
I enjoy teaching students about finding credible information. I am hoping to see more inclusive curriculum that centers on the voices of marginalized people and specifically BIPOC+ authors being at the center of that curriculum.
What will you do to celebrate Pride Month this year?
I’ll be hosting Medford’s First Annual Pride event on June 11 in Alba Park from 12-6PM. This event was put together by SO Health-Equity and it has been so much fun planning and organizing this all-ages event. The point is to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies. I am also going to Portland with my partner.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing educators today?
We have many obstacles as public school teachers. But I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life as this job has been so rewarding to me. It’s made me a better student, a better teacher, and a better human being. It has taught me that as a queer anti-racist and anti-sexist educator I can inspire and uplift all students to build a better world for themselves in a future post-pandemic society. It’s also made me realize the importance of public schools and the need to combat misinformation. People should know that there are a lot of powerful, moneyed interests who have always hated public education and want schools closed. They don’t want students who can think for themselves, they want obedient workers who will not question their motives.
Why, do you think, there is this a nation-wide interest in culling graphic novels, and what can or should our community do about it?
I feel so sorry for the students who are going to be most impacted by the culling of these books. Censorship of literature throughout history has done more harm than good. Books deserve to be openly read, praised, or criticized but should never be burned or hidden. Parents SHOULD actually read these banned books before they form an opinion of them. That includes politicians. Let students make their own choices for what they would like to read. I think there is a push for banning books especially considering conservative fearmongering of anti-racist, LGBTQIA+, and feminist works. As a community we need to stand up to these bullies that are trying to erase history by banning books and give our children the education they deserve. An education that is free of religious dogma and bigotry. Read banned books!
What is your personal favorite book? Or your favorite book to teach? Why do you like it?
My personal favorite book is Child of God by Cormac McCarthy. My favorite book to teach would be my current class novel my students are reading called Refugee by Alan Gratz. It was specifically written for middle school students, and it covers the Holocaust, Syrian refugee crisis, and the Cuban refugee crisis. It raises a lot of important questions for my students: Is war necessary? How should refugees be treated? Are there nonviolent solutions to the problems we face in our world today?
What book do you think would be helpful for educators to read? Why?
I would recommend Angela Davis: An Autobiography because she has convinced me that we can build a better world. A better world is possible. I’m hopeful for America’s future and I hope that we can begin the healing process from racism and white supremacy.
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