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A Closer Look at IBPA Member Ryan Neumann, Teacher and Self-Published Author

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Ryan NeumannIBPA Member Ryan Neumann (pictured right) wrote a great article about his self-publishing journey. You can read the full article at Little Pickle Press.

“It was probably in the best interest of all that you decided to leave.”

In every profession, there’s the good news and the bad news. The critiques and the critics. During the summer of 2011, I self-published a book about my observational experiences as a high school English teacher at an urban high school in the suburbs of Metro Atlanta.

Having always wanted to write a book (it was a bucket list item and everything), I’d previously been unsure of what to do with a surplus of writing I’d produced as the absurdities of my everyday life became more and more difficult to comprehend. Writing I’d forced upon myself as a means of both reflection and inspection, for a span of 24 months (stretching from my 3rd to 5th years of service), I thought and wrote about the teachery person I was becoming. At times both treacherous and tremendous, I identified the areas in which I excelled and those that should have gotten me expelled. But it wasn’t until I’d stopped writing and accepted a transfer position at my alma mater that I realized I could turn my writings into a rite of passage. While transitioning from the high school I began my career at to the high school I once attended, I rifled through the ramblings of my rookie years, organized them in a choose-your-own-adventure sort of way, and pressed the “publish” button within Amazon’s self-publishing service, CreateSpace. Within days, my first book, titled What Had Happened: a work of friction appeared in the Amazon bookstore.

Shortly after a neighborhood newspaper published an article about my localized efforts, a variety of things happened:

  1. Triumph. Turns out there were people who wanted to read what I wrote.
  2. Terror. Turns out there were people who wanted to read what I wrote.
  3. Tension. Turns out not everyone liked what I wrote…

which is to be expected. Right? I mean, you expound about anything and you’re bound to offend someone. Right? Write. Thing is, I wrote about my experiences as a teacher knowing full well that if my efforts were going to expose anyone for anything, it was going to be me. In other words, I figured if anyone’s going to be the frowned upon tool when the dust settles, it would be the guy who naively chose to write about what had happened. And who knows, maybe in the end I will be. I certainly hope not. I really try to avoid being a tool whenever possible. But writing in the moment (as I am now), I realize that every word I type could merely invite a respite I’m not prepared for. Spite and condemnation and all those vitriolic things we spend so much time in life trying to avoid. But then again, maybe nothing will happen. Maybe, because as I’ve been told time and time again, I’m just a teacher. So who cares? Why does it even matter?

Not so very long after word had spread about What Had Happened, I received an email from an offended acquaintance. Without going into the details of that correspondence, I will say the messenger expressed their discontent with what I’d chosen to share, that this individual thought my stories to be derogatory, and ended their message with the following phrase:

“It was probably in the best interest of all that you decided to leave.”

Press play on the present. For over three years, the email I described above has been the screensaver on my phone. Serving as both a reminder and reference point, the contents of this message have been greeting me multiple times a day, every day, for over 1,000 days. Mildly unhealthy? Maybe. Altruistically necessary? Absolutely.

The reasons for this message’s permanence has varied dramatically from week to week. Some days it’s been a source of motivation while others it’s brought on aggravation. However, it wasn’t until this past summer that it resonated to the point of purpose. While in the process of mentally preparing for the onset of another school year, I went to revisit my bucket list. Two items in particular stood out:

#7. Pay for a Student’s Entire College Tuition

#34. Affect and Effect positive change into the world of education

Then I looked at my phone:

“It was probably in the best interest of all that you decided to leave.”

Then I looked at my bucket list. And then back at my phone. And then it clicked, “it was in the best interest of all that I decided to leave.”…

You can read the entire article at Little Pickle Press.

About the Author

Ryan NeumannIn 2006, Ryan Lund Neumann was a brand new teacher, eager to change the world but unsure how he was actually going to do it. In 2009, he created a blog (neumannictimes.com) and began documenting his life as a teacher. Through reflective inquiry, he discovered he could positively affect the lives of others via teaching and writing. His first book, titled What Had Happened: a work of friction, is the result of his efforts to communicate how it feels to be a teacher, in and out of the classroom.

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