It’s 10 p.m. and one of my best friends and I decide to compulsively go buy about thirty dollars’ worth of flowers. We did this often–impulse buying after stressful days at work. Flowers are practical. And so is that nail polish with self-imposed misogynistic names. Spontaneity kept our minds quasi-busy. The moment we sat down—the moment we stopped—that was when our minds would dwell on heartbreak and failure so seemingly ubiquitous in education.
Arm me with the ability to successfully teach; give me a task that is not impossible. Hire me in a position where I really do act as an educator instead of a babysitter or cog in a wheel. Allow me to make decisions and change in education, and take that ability away from people who have never stepped foot in the classroom. Respect me enough to trust my opinion and treat me as a professional. Stop giving us tasks that, at first brim with a tempting frothy hope, but then fade into hopelessness. My heart was so full before I took this job, and now it is simply bitter and angry at the field of education.
One of the hardest things about teaching is the acting.
When you have a weekend, or even just a night, where certain situations push you to emotional exhaustion, or even go so far as changing you, putting an eternal dent in your identity. And then, you suddenly find yourself sitting in front of a class, wondering how to bring the pieces of your mind together. How to convince them that you’re okay when a rush of thoughts are occurring in your head, and your heart sinks into your chest. When you have to remain in the present for them, but the sensation of falling is pulling you back towards stagnation. Grief weighs the most when you stop.
It’s 7 a.m. and the wheels of my brain are already in spin, its synapses engaged with one of the Great Courses audiobooks from Audible.
In graduate school, the mornings became my haven of thought and research. Gone were my college all-nighters–filled with a glass of wine for inspiration and the double shots of espresso and writing until I got kicked out of the local coffee shop; after which, I would go back to my apartment and sit at my desk, surrounded by notes from my roommates: that I should go to sleep and cease the habit of housing four different types of liquids (normally water, coffee, tea, and diet coke).
The me of the present, who now shuts down mentally at 10 p.m., questions how any of that was possible; but, it does not deny the credibility of memories backed by my lovely and brutally honest college roommates who dislike the name Peter, know that a Mike Tyson can also be George Forman, and question my love of succulents.
‘The Learning process is something you can incite, literally, incite, like a riot.’ This is what happened that year. We read and talked and disagreed, and the world, so very much world, began to shake inside us as we found our humanity in all this inhumanity, found empathy and compassion, found moral compasses, as we learned to hold history accountable, to hold the newspaper headlines accountable, to hold each other accountable. And all this in English class, not at home, not at church or temple or mosque, but from reading novels with Ms. W. In one year, she turned us into thinkers. I began to understand reading and writing as a revolution, thinking as being a profoundly active verb. I began to understand that a person writing quietly in a room might be burning down the world. And then rebuilding it, word by word, into something magnificent.” -Audre Lorde
It’s a damp, muggy, beautiful July morning in Charleston. I am doing yoga beneath the ancient oak tree that sits by my apartment. From my twisted angle, the sun flickers a honeyed-yellow light between the pieces of Spanish moss. I inhale slowly and close my eyes, forgetting the last of the moving boxes I have to pack. Imagining myself at the front of a high school classroom–finally achieving my purpose: making a difference. I love my college kids, and I am still so passionate about teaching them, but the mentality of the ivory tower drained my idealism within my teaching philosophy.
The question mark is, perhaps, the most powerful syntactical mark that exists. The nature of the interrogative clause or phrase is that of thought–you inquire as a response to a problem. You draft, you adjust, you adapt, you grow, you think, you try, you test, you risk–all thanks to a question mark. All thanks to a question. What is inquiry but a hypothesis waiting to be tested? What is testing a hypothesis but progressing towards something extraordinary?
I love movement. Running. Galloping. Dancing. Walking. Climbing. Movement is freedom. It is the release of anxiety. It elevates my thoughts. It makes me aware of my entire body. It is tangible progress towards something. It is also, sadly, something our westernized culture seems to have forgotten.
Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, outside of traveling around the country, was one of the reasons I left my government job in Washington. Prior to finishing my Master’s, I knew that a cubicle/office job would not be a sustainable option, but the temptation of random recruitment and the combination of idealism with an opportunity to affect the politics of our country were enough to seduce me. And there I was, in a future I did not predict. Sitting in a cube. Wearing my suit. Drinking my coffee.
Sitting all day, ironically, is exhausting–but not in the manner of exhaustion that envelopes you, cushions you, after a long day of physically exerting work. It is a droopy exhaustion. Lethargy from nothing. Perhaps from preventing a rhythmic flow of blood through your body, or from your spine being contorted over itself. Science-y stuff.
As an educator, I have an interest in researching how video games can help us to better understand learning through interaction, play, and experience. Despite their often negative reputation for being a “waste of time,” video games still provide us with a unique medium of entertainment because they require direct interaction from the player. This aspect introduces a new dimension in how forms of entertainment and media affect us, especially in fields like medicine and psychology.
Writing. Critical thinking. Rhetoric. We often times find ourselves placing these words on a pedestal that focuses only on canonical literature or verbal literacy and communication.
That’s a major problem with academia, something that stems (somewhat) from the rise of philosophical thought and the shadows on Plato’s cave. Not that philosophy is bad, but it did undeniably see itself over art and visual thinking as some sort of intellectual behemoth well above cathartic moments and classical art. It was in this that our conceptions of the verbal and visual were divided as two separate and unequal modes of thought. *rant rant rant, academia, rant, ivory tower*.