Archive for Teaching

Youths!

Working with youth is really an art and a calling: not just a career choice.  Youth bring so much joy to my life, along with the anger at social injustice, the frustration, the sadness, but always joy and laughter and surprises.

Like the workshop I was doing last week in a High School where somehow a discussion of art and social issues turned into a sex ed discussion.  Suddenly I find myself explaining about how there is sperm in precum and so yes, the girl can get pregnant if you pull out.

Curriculum or not, if the youth are open enough and trusting enough to bring up real life questions I am ethically and morally compelled to address them.

Another class turned into a discussion of systemic oppression when students were clowning on their white teacher and I had to try not to laugh too hard at her “dang miss that must be a white thing coz we don’t do it like that!”  Badass latino youth speaking out.  Fuck. Yeah.

It takes something special to work with youth successfully.  A combination of resilience, humor, flexibility, compassion and a youthful spirit.  Aside from all the grand sounding and genuine reasons for my love of working with youth– social justice, empowerment, investment in community, etc., there’s the fact that I just love to play.  I love to laugh.  And they sure make me laugh my ass off on a regular basis.  I love to learn and they teach me all kinds of unexpected stuff.  I love to think and, when I’m doing it right, they consistently challenge me to think.  I love to kick it and have the discussions on a REAL level and strip away the distance created by academic discourse by bringing it home to a young person who is trying to make sense of some of the fuckery of the world and how it plays out in their lives.

I know two youth workers that I particularly admire.  One of them can be described by an icebreaker she did with a group where everyone had to do a dance move with their introduction and she did the robot and was captured on cell phone video for everyone’s enjoyment.  Not only does she work with teenage youth but she also mentors twentysomething youth.  And she’s such a joy to be around.  Creative and genuine and FUN!  The other one plays rockband with the youth on a regular basis, has an office filled with youth and with evidence of their presence: artwork they share with her, random action figures with significance, jewelry they’ve made, stuffed animals, notes, and a door covered in butcher paper so youth can express themselves.  Or the less savory evidence like a hotdog left over by the youth who were cleaning after one of their Friday feasts.  She gives them ownership of the program and empowers them to do for themselves without needing an adult authority figure to boss ’em around. Radical I know.

And what happens when people who work with youth get together and hang out is fun to watch too.  Of course I’m talking all poc so that’s also a factor.  Invariably we are too loud.  Whether it be sitting in the parking lot eating pizza on a break from program and talking about life or at a restaurant sharing a meal.  We are just too damn loud.  We joke and tease.  And we laugh till we cry. And sometimes we do cry when we talk about the challenges and frustrations.  We are intense.

I’m blessed to be able to participate in a few youth groups right now.  I volunteer for an LGBTQ youth group, which sounds noble of me but sometimes it means I just show up and kick it with them and play video games.  I also work for a program doing workshops in schools (yes the ones that led to sex ed last week).  And I’m starting a new job working with Elementary School children and doing program development, evaluation and outreach.  And I can honestly say that I love what I do.  There are days when administrative, bureaucratic, policy or political issues just piss me off but then I kick it with the youth and it’s all good.  They are real.

In one of my sessions last week we were talking about police harassing young people for suspecting they are taggers or gang bangers.  After walking them through a critical examination we identified ageism and racism as factors.  They would get harassed as young Latino males, I would not be likely to get harassed as an *ahem* adult Latina female.  Then we got to talking about the value that society places on the young.  The fear that young people evoke in adults, how they are perceived as a threat.  And hopefully part of what sunk in was the fact that some of us do value their opinions, their leadership, their thoughts, and some of us get a great deal of hope and encouragement from them and learn from them.  People talk shit about youth and what is this world coming to and they are not capable leaders, there’s a leadership vaccum who will take over for us, blah blah blah.  Me, I can’t wait for them to take over!  I’ll be there with pompoms doing the robot too!

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Dream come true

The first time I remember articulating this dream was in a purple hard bound journal 11 years ago.  I wanted to teach in the Corrections System.  Writing.  I wanted to bring the process of writing to the jails, to be part of the process of encouraging people to find their voice.  I wanted to be able to share the empowering and healing process of taking pen to paper, to share the sheer joy of self-expression, the critical self-discovery and critical exploration of social conditions that influence our lives.

I came close a few times but had never actually had the chance to do it.  And now, here I am, my name signed with a flair on the contract with Inside Out Writers.  I am going through the process of getting security clearance and doing observations before getting started and I’m so excited and honored.

I know this is going to be a difficult process, I’m not coming in this unrealistically and I’m well aware of the challenges the youth and the system will present, and aware that there are some challenges I’ll face that I can’t even imagine yet.  The biggest difficulty for me coming into this lies in dealing with the Juvenile Corrections System.  I have serious issues with the so-called justice system.

Recently I was given a chance to articulate some of these views in a documentary on the Lawrence King murder in Oxnard, CA.

Brandon McInerney, the young man who shot him, is being tried as an adult and faces the possibility of life in prison.  I was asked how I felt about that development.  That question made me pause.  I had come to the interview with a lot to say about education, schools, including my own experiences of homophobia as an adult within high schools.  That question made the already complicated discussion about education and the responsibility of schools even more difficult.  Ultimately my answer is that I don’t believe in the current system of corrections.  I don’t feel like locking McInerney up serves justice, nor does it serve community or the life of a young man who, having committed a heinous crime, is still alive.  Nothing can bring Lawrence King back and while the murder was a hateful horrible act, McInerney’s life is also valuable (he was 14!) and the pain, ignorance, fear, that led to his actions is also real.  I can’t just think in terms of good and bad.  Nothing excuses violence against another human being.  But a lot of circumstances can condone, and even encourage it.  The crime was a reflection of the inaction of the school, community, society.  It’s easy to try a 14 year old and lock him up.  It’s not as easy to confront the root of the problem, which we all participate in.  Which is one of my major problems with the so called justice system.  It’s not about rehabilitation, education, empowerment.  While we should all be held accountable for our actions on an individual level, punishing the individual makes it easy to leave larger social problems unexamined and to forget that a human life has been affected by social conditions that we all share responsibility for.

I’m not just vehemently against capital punishment, I’m also highly critical of a system that simply throws human beings into an institution where systems of oppression and dysfunction are reenacted and fundamental.  The answers can’t exist outside of larger community, which is affected in unacknowledged way by the incarceration and systemic abuse of our children, our mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, friends.

So knowing that in addition to my reactions to cops, guards, military and generally all figures of authority in a system of violence and oppression I also have a problem with the construct of the system.  Yet I enter it eagerly more than willingly. Why?  Because I believe n the youth and in my ability to have a positive impact, to empower and to participate in their growth.  It’s worth it to me as a way to challenge the system, even as I enter into an agreement to abide by its rules.  Whether I agree with them (no gang colors or script) or not (cursing is not allowed in the institution, although it is not censored out of their writing).  The young people can’t even keep the pens that they use in class because they can be used as weapons or as pipes.  The idea of not being able to have a writing implement makes my skin crawl.  More than the consideration of other restrictions on freedom– not being able to decide what or when to eat, when to get up, no privacy even when going to the bathroom– more than all of the restrictions, the idea of not having a pen makes my heart ache.

Incarcerated AND silenced.

I am eager to get in there and start the work.  I know it’s something I’m called to do and part of a larger journey.  This is spiritual work to me.  It’s a blessing and an honor to be able to finally act on this dream.  For a few hours a week I will be of service and be an instrument of change.  And for a few hours a week these young people will be able to unlock their voice and be heard, be seen, I’ll be a witness.

Children and community

I love children.  I love babies.  I love youth.

I’ve always been observant of the cultural differences in the value given to children and their place in community.

Where I come from children are part of the community and we are all responsible for loving them, protecting them, caring for them, educating them.  Where I come from (and I’m talking culture, not just geography) it’s okay to talk to a kid you don’t know or make funny faces at the baby in front of you at the checkout line.  You aren’t seen as a threat or a weirdo; just part of community.  And it’s so different from when I experience in Anglo culture.  I hate to resort to a problematic cliche like “it takes a village to raise a child,” but, well, it fits.  It’s okay to be affectionate with kids where I’m from: hugs and kisses are generously offered.  Kids are welcome at parties, no weird separation of adults and kids, no weird tiptoeing and hiding the beers, no perception of children as a burden.  Birthday parties for kids include the adults and are often loud in the best ways with music, drinking, dancing, dominoes, laughter.  And when the kids konk out the adults keep partying.  It’s normal to see a puppy pile of little ones on a designated bed or couch and anyone and everyone checks on them while festivities continue.  The idea of a party for children where adults aren’t welcome, or where they aren’t having a good time but are just hovering over the kids awkwardly is foreign.   Weddings, graduation parties, family bbqs, funerals, life events are all attended by community and community includes kids.  Kids are incorporated into activities and they are just another blessed fact of life.

Once a child enters into the mix the community shifts to welcome them, there are more eyes to watch them, more hands to guide them, more hearts to love them and keep them safe.  If a child is hurt, anyone of us will scoop him up.  If she is unsafe, any one of us will rush to rescue.  If he is bubbling with joy, every heart will smile.  As a member of the community, we all participate in their life.

Interactions with children has always been an area of culture shock for me, especially the walls put up around them that seem to say it’s not okay to love them if they aren’t yours.

I got to do some kitchen table organizing with friends recently and it warmed my heart to be there with three amazing, powerful, fierce women and two of their kids.  See, when women of color get together and there’s  kids in the mix there’s a dynamic that is usually different from anglo culture to me.  There’s a sense of community and freedom and an invitation to love.

As we plotted with a toddler and a three year old around, we were conscious of the kids and comfortable.  We were all at liberty to offer guidance, all entitled to a hug and a kiss, or a bop with a spiderman toy.  It gives me joy to work with a baby on my lap playing with my phone and chuckling his wizened toddler laugh.  It gives me joy to see the whirlwind of three year old energy playing with a butterfly net and a spderman figure around us, or belly laughing when Tita Thea ignores the fact that he’s pretending not to hear her goodbyes and scoops him up for a wiggly squishy hug.  All this while strategizing, planning, sharing dreams, anger, frustration, good food.  Kids weren’t a nuisance or a distraction.  They were part of the process.  They were part of the reason for doing the work.

I love the ways in which women of color so often come to community, how brown babies are passed around to be adored, and how we all care for them.  I love the easy ways in which we embrace their energy and the lack of apologies, no need to justify their presence.

I once taught an adult education course in Washington Heights.  The course was all Latinos and it was held on Saturdays for about 5 hours in a church.  The participants were motivated and invested.  When childcare was an issue I’d teach history with a baby on my lap drooling during our heated discussions.  There were older children who would come as well and they were always given a job, whether it be a five year old erasing the board, or a seven year old talking about something they had learned in school.  And in this learning community, everyone was valuable, the baby with his babas as much as the 60 year old woman sitting attentively in the front.

When I taught a Graduate course that was held on Saturdays I also had a child student, his parents were both there to learn English and the son would play in the halls, wander back in, hang out with me while the class worked, listen to their presentations, draw pictures on the board.  It was never a disruption, and we all accepted and welcomed him into our class.  Come to think of it, every class I’ve taught has been visited by little ones, some more than others, but always welcome.

One day soon(ish) I’ll have my own brown babies and I know they will have so many tios and tias to fuss over them; and primas and primos and to play with;  padrinos and madrinas to spoil them.  Comadres and compadres for me to turn to.  I know that my babies will have a place in community, a community to love them, see them, keep them safe because, well, that’s just how we roll.  And in the meantime, I feel fortunate to have beautiful babies who bless me.

Queer pedagogy

This was written as a review for somethin’ else but I thought it was worth posting, and reflecting more informally on. Comments are most welcome. 🙂

In “Queering Pedagogy in the English Classroom: Engaging with the Places Where Thinking Stops,” Amy E. Winans challenges educators to employ a queer pedagogy, which she explains, “entails decentering dominant cultural assumptions, exploring the facets of the geography of normalization and interrogating the self and the implications of affiliations” (107). The theme of sexuality is already present in student slang with expressions such as “that is so gay” used to refer to behavior that is contrary to normative masculinity, therefore, according to Winans the silence surrounding issues of sexuality in the classroom is artificial. By inviting the discussion into the classroom, students are able to engage with a theme that is present in national debates over same sex marriage and gay rights, prominent in many media products, and part of the talk of the locker room and cafeteria.

The model proposed by Winans requires that instead of staying away from conflict in the classroom, students be led to explore those areas of cognitive dissonance that emerge when the conflicting values of the discourse communities they belong to are revealed. She argues that a queering of the curriculum has implications beyond those of sexual orientation, leading to a process of critical (self) examination and practice with wider applications in student lives.

Winans’ proposition is appealing as a practical and relevant way to bring critical pedagogy into the classroom. By providing the students with tools to critically engage with their reality in a context of dialogue and discussion, students are being empowered to examine and explore hegemonic values that they might have never questioned otherwise. Society often assigns a negative value to controversy or debate, but as an educator it is in the difficult discussions that I have seen the most growth and excitement in learners and in myself as an educator/learner.

The proposition of a queer pedagogy challenging silences and naturalized positions is also relevant to the teaching of multiculturalism. It has been established that to simply include texts by the ‘other’ is not sufficient as it actually reinforces the normativity of the white subject. This queering approach requires that the normative categories become the target of examination and discussion.

Creating a student-centered learning space requires attention to the topics of discussion that are relevant to the learners’ lives and communities. When an issue is being hotly debated in the media, it is only logical that it be addressed in the classroom. By engaging with the learner as a whole human, and acknowledging the various discourse communities they belong to, sports teams, religious groups, ethnic communities, and many others, they are given an opportunity for self-discovery and critical learning. Discussions that encourage students to question their assumptions can only lead to greater understanding of the self, and eventually the other. This is a worthy goal for any class.

Winans, Amy E. “Queering Pedagogy in the English Classroom:
Engaging with the Places Where Thinking Stops.” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture 6:1 (2006): 103-122.

One of the great things about Winans’ discussion is the challenge to the usual practice of ‘othering’ in the classroom. Rather than simply focusing in on queer sexual identities and preaching the condescending gospel of tolerance, Winans is proposing a challenge to heteronormativity. WHY are the romantic relationships we read in English class only heterosexual? What power relationships are implied in this dynamic? Likewise, the examination of the construct ‘white’ as a racial identity should be part and parcel of the multicultural curriculum.

My own teaching philosophy tends to embrace conflict and debate as a learning opportunity. I work to create an environment where learners can take risks, be safe enough to deal with the discomfort of examining their own beliefs. I, of course, am always poking and prodding at the things I hold as truths and I love it when I am shown a different side, a new idea to consider, something I’ve overlooked…

When I was teaching first year composition, one of my favorite exercises was to have students play devil’s advocate:

In small groups they would select a controversial issue they all had opinions on. Abortion. Same Sex Marriage. Euthanasia. Legalization of Prostitution. Legalization of Marihuana. Sex before marriage. Anything goes.

They were asked to discuss the issue then… I would ask them to craft an argumentative paper that advocated the opposite position than the one held by the group. IN cases of mixed opinions they would either split into subgroups or negotiate.

I tried to avoid doing this the week before professor evaluations because I was not very popular then. Students tended to hate this exercise. Usually by the end it grew on them and while I did not expect to change anyone’s mind, I did expect to ‘force’ them to consider different viewpoint. It was always fun to watch the process unfold, and I always learned as much from it as my students did in the end.

And, while I never wrapped it up in a pedagogical package, I was constantly queering the curriculum.

I’ll never forget some of the wonderful class discussions on words like ‘cabron’ and ‘maricon’ in their many uses. But that is a blog for another time!

Old (Job) Stress

One reason I ended up moving to the island and going back to school was The Job.

I had my Dream Job and my nightmare rolled into one. I was a parent educator so I worked with littles prenatal through age 11. Basically I had several curriculae I worked from and I would visit families in their homes to teach parents how to help their children learn. I got to play with toys and draw pictures and teach and bounce babies on my knee. It was great. I would also do development evals, work with child abuse and neglect prevention and reintegration and general parenting troubleshooting. I loved this job. My clients were awesome. I met some super cool kids, made a pretty significant impact in a lot of little lives, from child abuse situations to upper crust homes I was privileged to be a part of many families on a weekly basis.

The downside? The office. So, the job sounds like I should have been happily wearing my granola sandals and taking breaks to hug the tree outside the building. In actuality this was the most conservative group of people I’ve met in the helping profession, particularly dealing with child abuse and neglect. They were judgmental and mean about clients: both parents and kids. They were racist and homophobic. They deliberately encouraged backstabbing and gossip. The two progressive women in the organization left and it was turning into a very scary place.

Just to illustrate my point, I was given an official written reprimand for emailing my coworkers regarding auditions for The Vagina Monologues at the women’s center because it was offensive language. In a social service organization. So I can work with women who have been raped and with little girls who have been molested but if I use the word vagina… I’m obscene?!

The only reason I didn’t quit sooner was because I just loved the clients. I still keep in touch with some of them and I wish I could have made the job work but they were happy to see me leave and we all knew it. I never fit in there, which is probably a good thing!

So, why am I thinking about this wonderful/awful job? Because I had to call them to get a letter stating I’d worked there and what I did so I can get out of paying a student loan (YEAH!).

Just thinking about calling there made my stomach tie up in knots. My whole body was tense and I could barely make myself do it. I finally did call, was treated like shit (duh!) and still don’t know if the letter got sent. Now I’m dreading having to call again but mostly rejoicing that I had the good sense and courage to get the hell out of there while I could! I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything but I am glad I spared myself the ongoing stress!

Anyone wanna pretend to be me and call them for me??? 😛

My Teaching Blog

This Saturday I will start teaching English for International Students and I have started a new blog here just about teaching. I hope to be posting activities, lesson plans, and general observations as I go. I’m excited but also a bit overwhelmed. I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot this semester!

I will still be maintaining this blog, fear not! There’s just one more place to be dazzled by my insight. 😉

Sex Ed

I was watching the news yesterday and there was a short report on a new sex ed manual that has been purchased by the Department of Education. I searched, albeit not very thoroughly to see if I could find any more info on this story but was unable to but what they showed was laughable. [Update: I found a mention at El Nuevo Dia]

Apparently some teachers and some parents were up in arms over this manual which was intended to be used with children from age 6 (outrageous I know) to 12 or something like that. The outrage was because the manual adressed topics such as masturbation and contraception.

The reason I tried to look for more info was that while I was watching I couldn’t pay full attention–I was busy trying to find my calendar to check the year. Yes, it’s still 2006 and my suspension depression did not cause any major temporal lapses.

When I worked with preschoolers, part of the curriculum included learning about their bodies and there was also a section on ‘personal safety.’ These four year olds were taught that they had a penis or vagina respectively. I remember I came in from a meeting once and found a little boy inside while the rest of the children were outside on the playground. I asked him what happened and he somberly explained that he had wet his pants and came in to change cause he had a penis and he had to put pants on to cover his penis. All stated very earnestly. What do you say to that? Yes, honey. You do have a penis. Good job putting pants on. Now go play. LOL

The personal safety lessons involved teaching them that it isn’t bad to touch your ‘private parts’ as long as you are in a private place and that no one else should be touching your private parts. IT was geared to preventing sexual abuse and help children keep themselves safe and healthy. The drawings were cartoons and the stories were appropriate to children their age.

Now, back to the images of the manual under discussion. The illustrations were cartoons in full color. They showed a pregnant lady with children poking her belly and seeming to ask questions. They showed two figures in bed. And they showed little girls mooning over cartoon little boys. Nothing even remotely inappropriate from what they showed.

The news did a few of the pendejos on a streetcorner interviews to see what the word on the street is. The three interviews I saw were older gentlemen. They didn’t seem particularly outraged but the reporter’s questions seemed to guide them to express at least a bit of discomfort with fragile little minds being filled with visions of masturbatory bliss.

The assumptions this outrage is based on is very troubling to me.
We assume that children, prepubescent or post, are not sexual beings and don’t have sexual feelings.
We assume that sex is negative and bad (hence ‘innocent’ little children cannot be sexual)
We assume that sexual knowledge is dangerous–one of the objections was that they might start trying to do all this stuff they learn about.
We assume that sexual education is shameful or dirty and we should protect kids from it until the last possible minute (by which time some of them are pregnant already)
We also assume that sexual education is not part of health and self-care (and I didn’t mean the masturbation bit)
And we assume that sex should not be addressed by schools or social agencies and should only be addressed in the home.
We also assume that sexual abuse is not a daily reality for way too many children (one child is too many).

The manual didn’t even include sexual orientations. Imagine the uproar if someone suggested that some boys like to kiss other boys, some boys like to kiss boys AND girls, and some boys don’t like to kiss at all (asexuality is now being recognized as a sexual orientation). Add to it gender issues, some boys feel like girls on the inside, some girls hate dresses and that’s okay… and we have a revolution on our hands. Boys would be wearing skirts and girls would be playing sports and they’d be poking pregnant ladies in the bellies and masturbating in their bedrooms. The horror.

Mandatory Suspension update:

I was a bad, bad grrl… I went to school and learned somethin’ even though I wasn’t sposta. take that! 🙂

Work ‘n’ Culture shock

I had never had to job hunt on the island. I was either recruited for summer jobs when I was younger or I did translating and editing jobs piecemeal, or I’ve worked in the University. That’s it. I’ve job hunted in the US but never here. It was frustrating watching Mag try and try and try to find work here and fail repeatedly. The system by which jobs are procured in the US does not work here.

In the US you buy your Sunday paper and you look at the classifieds and Monday at the butt crack of dawn you start faxing, calling and running around to try and occupy the desired position. Not so here. Classifieds are used sometimes for jobs in the San Juan area (3 hours away from us) but not even then. Instead, you hear about it from a friend. We get our jobs via chisme. So if you are lucky enough to know the right person, voila, you have a job.

I have started applying at many private schools here which don’t require a teaching license which I do not possess. Nevermind that I am doing a Master’s in English Education, the program is not conducive to certification. Go figure. Allow me to digress in order to explore one of those paradoxes which are along the lines of the 8 hotdogs to a pkg, 6 buns to a pkg order of magnitude:

1. Parents pay–often LOTS– to send their sweet little children to private school.
2. Private schools also receive government subsidies and grants and denomination sponsorship.
3. Private schools also get a cut of sales from books, uniforms, gym pants and notebooks with the school logo.
4. Private schools also get money from fundraisers, alumni, etc.

Then… how on earth is it possible that

Private schools pay UNDER $1000 per month in most cases??

Of course they have incredibly high turnover because you can’t live on that much money and when teachers get offered better jobs or get a chance to enter the public schools, which pay better although not well, they leave. The private schools don’t have substitute lists in place for the most part.

Of course they don’t have the best teachers because they don’t pay enough to get the best teachers.

So, where is all that money going? I don’t think it all goes into curricular design because I’ve seen the curriculae. It’s a mystery. And why would parents pay lots of money to send their kids to schools with underpaid teachers…?

Anyway, culture shock. Yeah. Applying to these schools implies a whole different set of codes. Starting with what the hell to wear. I had a debate that paralyzed me in the bedroom with clothes strewn all about me. Clothing has very much to do with my philosophy of education. If I am teaching elementary school and I have a hands on style and I move around a lot and get dirty, I don’t want to wear dry clean only suits and heels to school. To me, nice clothes for teaching are comfortable and washable clothes for teaching. But no. See, image is important at these schools. I watched while teachers walked in, or should I say tottered in, in their sparkly high heels with gauzy dresses on and runway makeup. I at least wore heels with my jeans. *sigh*

I sat in offices while mothers gossiped about other mothers, about money, about cars, about the teachers all while I filled out the application and debated lying about which religious denomination I belong to. I mean really, will they check?

I am applying to enter a world which is completely foreign to me. I understand education, I understand the classroom, I understand children. I don’t understand elaborate pecking orders, name dropping as a necessary qualification for employment or the disdain some teachers express for their profession. Why again would you take a job for under 12000 per year if you hate it? Sears pays more than that. Only reason I’m not applying at Sears is because that job would kill my soul, teaching for peanuts would not.

Mag got a job. She was called one night by the owners of a pizza place and told to ‘come in tomorrow to work.’ They called once and didn’t leave a message, then she called back. Had she not called back, would she not have a job? Notice, I didn’t mention any interview. That’s because there wasn’t one. Just come in tomorrow to work. Wow.

I love my island, I truly love my tropical paradise… but sometimes we can be pretty ass backwards.
So, while Maggie is making pizzas (or trying to despite the lack of training) I am trying to crack the code in order to fit in enough to get hired somewhere to teach something, anything, for peanuts. Peanuts are good.

My appeal is scheduled for the 24th and I should have news by 1:30 PM. I still harbor a tiny nugget of hope that I’ll be allowed to enroll this semester and carry-on. All prayers, happy thoughts, chocolate cakes and support are most appreciated. Don’t worry I won’t check the denomination or religion.

A Death in the Family

Now that I am effectively NOT going back to school next week I feel like there has been a death in the family.

This family member called Grad School (also known as papers, grading or goddamned meetings) who would sit at the table during dinner, who would sometimes hog the covers in bed, who would drink the last of the milk and put the jug back in the fridge, who would sometimes surprise me with a good book, who brought all kinds of cool friends over, who led me to too much chocolate, who guzzled gas, who bought me jewlery, who taught me to sleep with my eyes open while smiling and nodding… this dear friend is gone. For now. Perhaps forever. Who knows.

I feel the loss just as sharply. No, I’m not being melodramatic. As much as some folks have reassured me that I can go back and finish in a year when my suspension is up, that I can go into a doctoral program and not worry, I know it’s not so. I know overwell that life has a way of going on and demanding to be lived. I know that I will be either working or desperately looking for jobs and that whatever lies ahead is a mystery to me.

So, for now, I’m in mourning.

This involves moments of denial when I catch myself thinking about going back into the classroom to teach and how much I love the first day of class with all its potential and possibilities.

This involves moments of grief (compounded by hormones) such as bursting into tears over back to school shoppers because I won’t be back to schoolin’.

This involves moments of panic over how on earth I will get a job in the area when schools are starting next week.

This involves moments of escapism when I flee into a book or a nap and just forget how much it hurts.

And it involves ocassional tantrums for good measure. “It’s not fair” really shouldn’t be part of my vocabulary but I can’t have the milk and cookies so I’ll have the foot stompin’ (and the nap!).

I’ve lost something (one?) dear to me. I’ve lost a major part of who I was and what I did.

I still have an appeal but even if I am allowed to go back (which is not looking likely but all the positive energy you can channel that way will help) it won’t ever be the same.

So, now I’m forced to figure out what I’m going to do next, who I’m going to be next. I’ve been so many wonderful and challenging things… what’s next? Even through the sorrow of loss I have a sense of excitement wondering where this strange road is leading me next. I have no idea but I’m sure it won’t be boring.

Touchstone

Because I’m trying to hold on to the positive 🙂

Here’s a gem from my new batch of student evals. I’ve met my goal and I’ll proudly confess I cried when I read it:

“the teacher, basically corrects little by little to perfect the writing skill of people, because you understand, not everybody can be a Joyce, or Miller, but we can be a Rafael, a Jose, a Monica, a Michelle, a Nicolas, just exactly what a good teacher should do, inspire us to be who we are. And that my teacher you do very well.”

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