Monthly Archives: April 2011

Delayed Reaction

I don’t waste energy pretending to be someone I’m not at work.  I know a lot of people who make very clear distinctions between their personal selves and their professional selves, but I am in the fortunate position of not feeling compelled to do that and, as a result, I don’t.  I’m actually proud to be a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person; my students would recognize me out in public because I’m exactly the same person at work as I am at home.  It just so happens that this person identifies as a strongly liberal, enthusiastically progressive rational Humanist.

Part of how I express myself in my professional life is through words (no, really, Chili?!).  I have a plethora of bumper stickers and posters and hangings and magnets and quotables stuck on vertical surfaces all over my room, and most of them express decidedly progressive, liberal values.  Clearly, the students see (and appreciate) this, because not long after the school year started, they began coming in with things to add to my collection.

Around the second or third week of school, a student printed out this picture and gave it to me.  I taped it among a bunch of other things in what I thought was a relatively non-prominent section of a filing cabinet.

I was fully expecting to have to take it down in short order.  The image is a little pushy for the classroom, even for me, and even if the kids didn’t object, it is a fact that the school’s board meets in my room.   I know for sure that board members often peruse my collection of sayings while they’re milling about drinking coffee and eating pastry while waiting for their meetings to begin; I was certain one of them would express concern or raise an objection or ask my boss to talk to me about it.

September… October (when a student came back from the Rally for Sanity with the Less Condos / More Condoms sticker for me)… November… December… January… February… March… April… nothing.  No one mentioned it, no one even brought it up.

Yesterday – YESTERDAY – I get a message from my boss asking me to take it down.  Someone complained (I have no idea who – and, honestly, I don’t want to know – but I suspect it’s one of the same kids who’s been complaining that we’re not validating his or her Christian beliefs) and, as a consequence, I’ve been told to take it down because we can’t be “advertising” sex.

My boss, to her credit, made it clear that she has no issue with the image.  She’s responding to pressure from outside the school, and it’s just not a fight worth having.

I have chosen not to make a stink about this, but it is a very near thing.  I think, if I hadn’t just spent the last month raging and despairing about the state of our culture, I would likely have the energy to protest.  I’m just tired.  I’m tired of people being too closed-minded to understand that the KIDS brought this in, that this is an image that expresses positive ideals.  They would understand that this isn’t about sex; it doesn’t represent an advertisement for sex but rather is a First Amendment right to dissent, and that the message the image is sending is that while the closed-minded and ugly have a right to free speech, so does everyone else.  I would fight for this if I thought it wouldn’t give my boss any more stress than she’s already getting from the person/people complaining about it.  I WILL fight for this if a student notices it’s gone and raises questions.  As it is, I’ve transferred the image to the other side of the cabinet where I can see it, and where students who come to conference with me will see it.  I like the positive message it gives (notice who’s smiling in the picture?), and I want the kids to know that I support fully their right to dissent, but not to silence those who have something to say.

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Filed under Civics and Citizenship, critical thinking, debate and persuasion, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, Gay/Straight Alliance, General Griping, GLBTQ issues, Learning, out in the real world, parental units, really?!, rhetoric, self-analysis, Student Activism, student chutzpah, You're kidding...right?

Quick Hit: Too Funny *EDITED*

This, my students will tell you, is absolutely true.

image credit

HA!  English teachers fire back!

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Filed under Uncategorized

Schizophrenic

I teach freshman writing courses at Local U. in the fall terms.  I’ve been doing that for a couple of years now, and over the course of staff meetings and walking the hallowed halls of the English building (most notably in the dungeons where all the adjunct offices are), I came to have a passing relationship with a number of my fellow adjuncts.  One fellow in particular made an impression on me.

Mike is one of those people who’s hard to read at first.  He presents a pretty imposing first impression; though he’s not particularly tall, he is broad and solid.  With a mane of reddish hair and a long beard to match, he reminds me of a cross between How to Train Your Dragon‘s Stoick

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and Barbosa from Pirates of the Caribbean

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No, really.

Anyway, there was something about Mike that just resonated with me, so when it was decided that CHS needed a part-time English teacher, he was the first person I thought of and the only person I wanted.  I hunted him down (no small feat, given that I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember his name.  Fortunately, being as noticeable as he is, the secretary for the English department at LU was able to discern my description and get me his email address), and started stalking him on email.  He consented to an interview that went far better than I was expecting, and within a week or so, he was ours.

I was beside myself with happy.  I had SUCH a good feeling about this guy, and I just KNEW he was going to be perfect and you know what?  He is.  I have fallen professionally head-over-heels, crazy in love with this man; he’s smart and funny, he’s got a rapport with the kids that strikes the perfect balance of freedom with responsibility, and he manages the sticky or uncomfortable conversations that happen in discussion-heavy classrooms with a nimble agility that delights me every time I witness it (and I get to witness it a lot; I tend to use his teaching period to grade my own work, so I’m camped out at my desk behind a half wall in the room).  He challenges my thinking, too; I delight in the conversations we have outside of class, I love the way he looks at the goals and challenges we face, and he inspires me to keep pushing myself when I start to despair.

There should have been red flags.  NOTHING in my life that happens with such ease and grace should be accepted on face value, so it should have come as no surprise to me that this perfect professional marriage wasn’t going to last.

Mike has applied, and has been accepted to, an MFA program in writing.  This program wants him so badly that they called him to ask him to come to their school, they’ve offered him a full scholarship and a teaching gig.  They would be idiotic not to want him – he’s dedicated and talented and would be an outstanding addition to any academic community – and he would be an idiot not to take it – how often do liberal arts people get their advanced degrees paid for?  (In case you’re wondering the answer to that question, it’s “never.”)

So here’s my problem; I am DELIGHTED for Mike.  I know that this is what he really wants – unlike me, who is a teacher first and a writer second, Mike is hellbent on being an artist.  Writing is what he does – he works it and loves it and celebrates and agonizes over and wrestles with it.  He keeps files and napkins and notebooks, he lies awake at night chasing down stories – he wants to hone and perfect his craft, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to do just that.  I know this is what he wants (perhaps more than he wants anything else), and I’m thrilled that it’s worked out so well.

On the other side, I’m petulant and cranky and just shy of a temper tantrum because this wonderful opportunity is in… wait for it… OREGON.  As in, how-far-away-can-you-be-and-still-be-on-the-continent Oregon.  I got this wonderful coworker for exactly long enough to fall completely in love with him, to start imagining the kind of kick-ass English department we could design for this fledgling school, and the bastid is going to pack up and move literally across the country.

Sigh.

 

The search has already begun for Mike’s replacement.  I had a candidate visit yesterday and, while there’s a lot to recommend this man, I’m not convinced he’d work.  Since we are a department of precisely two, I need to know that I can work well with whomever we choose, and I’m not sure that this guy is it; his vision seems narrower than I’m comfortable with, and I could sense, even in that brief meeting, the potential for tension.  I’m trying to keep a very open mind and to go with the flow of this change and to not let my adoration for Mike cloud my judgment of the applicants vying to replace him, but I also have to listen to my gut.  Maybe I should let MIKE choose the next person to hold his job…

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Filed under admiration, colleagues, frustrations, General Griping, out in the real world, really?!, writing, Yikes!

THIS Close…

I’ve got this kid…

Let’s call her Norah.  Norah is a senior, and she failed out of the English class she had with me last year.  She struggles as a writer, she believes she doesn’t have anything important to say, and she thinks she doesn’t think as keenly as others do so, as a consequence, she gave up about 3/4 of the way through and failed out.  She did online work over the summer to make up that credit, and she came back to me this year as a senior.  So far, she’s been doing okay – better than last year, certainly, but I can tell that she’s just doing time.

This afternoon, one of my colleagues ratted Norah out.  He told me that she’d told him at lunch that the only reason she can’t write extended papers is that she’s “never been pushed to.”  She was lamenting the fact that she still struggles with expanding her thinking out past the easy and obvious, and she was looking to pin the responsibility for that on someone other than her.

I chased her ass down as soon as I heard this and found her in a study group with another senior.  In front of that kid and another of my colleagues, I told Norah that I rejected her claim that she’d not been pushed – as a matter of fact, I personally have spent the last year and a half pushing her (it’s a wonder she still talks to me).  I told her, in front of those witnesses, that I think she’s capable of not just good, but great, and that if she just quit fighting and convincing herself that she sucks, she could, you know, NOT.

I thought about it all afternoon, and I feel like she’s THIS close to figuring all of this out, so I sent her this via email:
Dear Norah,

First, know that I’m not at all upset with you, and I’m not taking what you said personally; I know that you believe that English is hard for you and that you feel you may not have gotten the support you needed all along.  I can’t help that, but I AM doing my very best to give you my very best now, while I’ve got you.

What I really want you to know – not just know, but believe – is that *I* believe in you.  I think you’re smart and strong and funny and beautiful, and it KILLS me that you don’t see yourself the way I do.  I truly believe that if you just figured out how wonderful you really are – how much you see and how much you understand and how much you could express if you just got out of your own way – there would literally be no stopping you.  I wish you could see you the way I do, even if only for five minutes; you’d understand, then, why I jump on you the way I do.  I’m bossy and stern because I want you to figure this out – I want you to see that the only thing holding you back is you and your belief that you’re less than you are.  You are SO much  more than that.

With much affection,

Mrs. Chili

I hope this is one that I can reach.

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Filed under compassion and cooperation, I've got this kid...., the good ones

The Battle Has Begun

It has come to my state.  This should be fun.

 

Image credit – Armchair Patriots from facebook

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Filed under politics