"...you are my strength and my stay. You are my guidance and you are my rock. You are amazing. You are good troublemakers."
An honor and responsibility for the TOAD (teacher on active duty) most Mondays is to give what’s called a TOAD Talk at the day’s Assembly. The topics of each talk are completely up to the TOAD and have ranged from sea slugs and feminism to vampire bats and glitter. A recent talk by Juliet Henderson (Spanish teacher and Varisty tennis coach) focused on the concept of Good Trouble. Read on for a transcript of her talk.
This is my first toad talk in three years, which I am pretty excited about. I spent a lot of time thinking about this Toad Talk and what topic to address. My wife told me to “stay under the radar” as I have a tendency to speak my mind and have a history of getting myself into trouble.
I never try to get into trouble on purpose, I just try to say and do the right thing. This got me thinking about the concept of “good trouble,” a term coined by late civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman, John Lewis. For him, “good trouble” meant standing up to and speaking about injustices. In Lewis’s address to the Bates College graduating class of 2016, he said that Martin Luther King, Jr. “inspired me to stand up, to speak up, and speak out. And I got in the way, I got in trouble — good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Good trouble is a wonderful thing to get into; the problem comes with the people who determine what is good trouble and what is not. I imagine that those who did not support John Lewis’s activism did not think he made good trouble. They probably thought he just made...well...trouble. But he made that trouble anyway and he stood up for what he knew was right.
Most people who make change in any way do it through some sort of troublemaking. And perhaps some of the best, unsung, good troublemakers are middle-aged women. I am fortunate to have many of these good troublemaking women in my life right now. Look around you. You are surrounded by incredible women. I read an article a few years back called “In Praise of Prickly Women,” which addressed middle-aged women making good trouble in academia. In that article, I saw myself and the people I have the good fortune to call my friends. Here at Thacher and in my previous jobs I have always liked the prickly women the most, and my life is better for having them in it.
I see potential prickly women in many Thacher students. I see the activism and strength that will get you into good trouble later on in life. I have met your mothers and your aunts and your grandmothers and your family friends and I see the prickly women, the good troublemakers, who are shaping you to become change agents in the future.
And so… if you will indulge me for a few minutes, I want to read you a love letter, a love poem, a love note to the prickly women in my life:
To you, who have guided me, known me, loved me, driven me, critiqued me, and cried with me.
To you, who have told me when it’s too much, when it’s not enough, and when it’s never enough.
Together we have railed and raged against the patriarchy, the misogyny, and homophobia that surrounds us and is continually brushed under the rug. We make good trouble and we strive to change systems. We reclaim our time.
We are the ones who put our daughters in cars and drove through six states to our nation’s capital where we donned pussy hats and marched and yelled and showed what good trouble is in action.
We have been called difficult and divisive for speaking out and having opinions. We have been passed over for deserved promotions and when we finally earn them we are told what to wear and what to say and nevertheless, we persist.
We are depth of emotion: together we rage cry and we laugh. We laugh until we can’t stop. We eat cheese and Cheetos and we share our secrets and we love, we always love. We love through jokes and memes and inappropriate humor that often belie the challenges that life throws at us daily. We are the products of our generation. We are the menopausal and the perimenopausal. We are Boomers and we are Gen X. We are The Handmaid’s Tale and the Bechdel Test. We are Judy Blume and #metoo. We have lost husbands, wives, lovers, and friends. We bore witness to an entire generation of men lost to a pandemic that history refuses to remember and we mourn together. We share the pain of our parents’ decline and we comfort each other in their absence. And, still, we love and we laugh and we make good trouble.
We are married and divorced. We are straight and we are gay and all the colors in between.
We are travelers, teachers, students, artists, athletes, and explorers. We are American. We are undocumented. We are first-generation. We are privileged and we are persecuted. We are complicated and we are brilliant. We make good trouble.
You, my prickly friends, you are my strength and my stay. You are my guidance and you are my rock. You are amazing. You are good troublemakers. And I love you.