Monthly Archives: February 2018

see me / see you

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 3.26.24 PM

After watching this TED talk by the “8-Foot Bride” (aka musician/performance artist Amanda Palmer), we’re writing to the questions at the bottom of this post today:

This Afternoon Pages entry is the first in a 3-part series on a vulnerability that we’re writing to in relation to being a Teacher as Writer, who’s also a CO301D student, who’s also completing a UGP.

I’m nervous that I’ve made myself vulnerable to some extent by even considering the topic of vulnerability with my students. In the past, my high school students and every so often my university students as well have some observation that we should “just stick to the facts, ma’am” instead of making personal connections to class content or to one another. I sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. I have just always found the question peculiar because I thought that was partly what this learning and literacy thing was all about–personal engagement and interaction, right? It’s perfectly fine that some students don’t share this view, but every time it surfaces, I think about the false divide that has been created by the schooling system as we currently know it (yikes–passive voice abstracting systems, even though WE are the system) that separates the “student” and the “teacher from one another and also from the reality that we are human beings. There is an intersection here. 

But you know what? I’ve decided to show up, as Brene Brown puts it in Daring Greatly, not just as the “professor,” but as a human being in my classes. Because, guess what? I want my identity to animate my teaching. This is my life energy. This is my students’ life energy. Shouldn’t it count for something?

This intention is also based on the work I’m doing with teachers in the CSU Writing Project around our working theory of action on “sustainable teaching.” From experience, I know that it takes so much dang energy to pretend to be someone you aren’t in the classroom, for students and teachers alike.

This doesn’t mean that I’m never afraid on any given day. I’ve just learned (and will always be learning) that if I give into that fear of letting my students see me–if my students give in, too–we will have missed an opportunity to tap into the beautiful, dangerous experience of being writers, teachers, and learners with one another.

And wouldn’t that be a waste?

What does it mean to really see someone? What does seeing someone require? What does it mean to be seen? What does being seen require? What does any of this have to do with being a learner, a teacher, a writer, and a human being inside and outside of school?

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wobble #5,239,084,710,928,347

Yeah, that’s a lot of numbers up there. I could put a “squared” or “cubed” numeral at the top of that, too, because, well, at least in my case, that’s what it’s like to be a writer on any given day. True, there are the occasional days of flow, too, and boy do those feel great, but more often not, what happens is that I pose/wobble/flow in a single session. Just as Antero Garcia and I have written, the P/W/F cycle is recursive, not linear.

The good news is that no matter how many experiences I have under my belt as a writer, no matter how many times I may want to throw my writing utensil du jour across the room (this can get dangerous and expensive, BTW), I know what’s coming:

pose (I can do this! Write an AP entry, an article, a letter, an e-mail or blogpost, a chapter, a book) –> wobble (I’m definitely going to do this, and it makes my head hurt and my eyes twitch. A lot. Also, there’s a grumpiness factor, and a lot of staring at the screen) –> (with enough faith, trust, and pixie dust, this will happen, too.)

I love the phrase “write toward light” because it conveys for me both:

1, Light = flow (ergo it exists)

2. Light is a stance and a subject and an aspiration for me. I want my writing to matter and be about things that matter in ways that matter. I want to add to–which sometimes means pushing back against–the conversation, whatever it may be.

3. Light flows, absent of particles and debris. While I sometimes use my daily pages just to whine and vent so I can unclog those pipes, I do want to write toward something that flows clear and clean and true.

The phrase reminds me that the wobble is worth it, so the astronomical number keeps going and going and going. Hopefully, so do I.

starting from scratch

Today’s Afternoon Pages ask us to think about starting a school from scratch.

In my mind’s eye, there would be beauty, actual aesthetic beauty, in the place. It would not look like a prison; it would not look like a big box store with walls. There would be LIGHT, lots of light because if plants need it to grow, probably it’s good for people, too. (Students and teachers are people, by the way, with faces and bodies who need to see the sun.) There would be other living things: plants, therapy dogs, a garden. There would be high ceilings in common spaces and low ceilings in cozy ones. There would be movable seating on wood floors and color on the walls, which would be filled with a rotating array of student art and writing. There would be floor-to-ceiling windows on some walls that open to the outside when possible. There would be music and zero bells. Also, probably ice cream.

As I visualize the physical space, I realize that spaces implicitly reflect our beliefs about the purposes of school. If you allow that schools have identities, then the spaces also convey and reflect values. They silently communicate who gets to be a learner, whose voices matter. Voice enables the enactment of identity.

Do you visualize yourself as a dynamic learner? Then you need a dynamic space in which to learn that reflects who you are and might become.

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