John Wayne’s Teeth

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I woke up this morning with “John Wayne’s Teeth” from Smoke Signals playing in my head. If you haven’t watched Smoke Signals go right now, rent it from somewhere, sit your butt down and watch it. It is a beautiful story about American Indian life and redemption. I screen it at least once a year either in my classes or during some random period of time where we babysit and show films. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am a high school English teacher. 

We live about 15 minutes away from the largest reservation in the US, The Wind River Rez. About 16% of my students are Native. Alcoholism is both endemic and epidemic on on the Rez. I hear heart breaking stories from my students. I am supposed to be role model. I am supposed to provide sanctuary. For awhile now, I have felt like a fraud. 

What will a sober teaching practice look like? I absolutely love teaching. I am relatively new at it and fought for the position I have currently. I almost pissed it away last year: teaching hung over, not planning like I should, late on paperwork and grading because drinking was my weekend priority. No one ever called me on the drinking but I am guessing my principal knows something is up. I neglected duties related to an after school tutoring program and subsequently was removed. I am starting my third year and my principal has told me that she is evaluating whether or not I am a good fit. Basically, she told me to get my shit together or I am done. 

The more I evaluate my alcohol use and related actions and inactions, the more I see how much is riding on successful sobriety. No pressure, right?


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