Monthly Archives: February 2019

There’s a cool little coffee shop near campus called Mugs, and Tuesday morning, I saw this sign over their cash register:


Thus I of course thought of the following Afternoon Pages prompt:

If a coffee shop has a motto and “words they like,” so should we. We’ve thought a lot about why it’s worth it to teach now. What should our class motto be in this regard? What are the words we like–as in, the words that should ground our thinking as we proceed throughout the semester? 

I can’t make a class motto myself, of course. That’s for these wonderful young educators to do, but I can speak to “words I like,” or one word, to be more precise.

We just read an interview with Paolo Freire from 1985 issue of Language Arts, and one of his words is “love.” He explains that we must “love students, in spite of everything. I don’t mean a kind of soft or sweet love, but on the contrary a very affirmative love, a love which accepts, a love for students which pushes us to go beyond, which makes us more and more responsible for our task.”

I recognize that it’s unfashionable to talk about love when the terms “education” and “global competition” are bedfellows in almost every political conversation, and yet, we must, mustn’t we? We aren’t reluctant to talk about our love of literature or writing or teaching in general, but we teach people, too. Shouldn’t we love them? It’s the only way, really, to push through the hard work we have to do.

On a related note, yesterday, I was listening to a podcast interview between Krista Tippett and neurologist Richard Davidson, where Davidson unequivocally states, “I’m not afraid to speak about love. I think that the way I think about it is that love is a quality which obliterates certain kinds of boundaries.”

What got left out of that cognitivist movement in education, according to Davidson, is attention to the parts of our brain that connect to our emotions and our capacity for empathy, kindness, and yes, love. He explains,

the brain does not honor the kind of anachronistic distinction between thought and feeling. Thought and feeling are absolutely intermingled in the brain, and so there are no areas of the brain that are exclusively dedicated to one and not the other.

So in the end, hard science agrees that Freire is right.

As per Davidson, “Cultivating the qualities which will promote resilience — yes, in some sense it’s soft, but in another sense, you couldn’t get much harder in terms of what really matters.”

So “love.” Perhaps I have a motto after all.



Afternoon Pages: The Song That Gets Me Through.

….and we’re back. Almost every semester for the past couple of years, I’ve asked my students to write in response to this prompt (after I introduce them to fabulous Chaka Khan, who THEY DON’T KNOW THEY KNOW ABOUT–and she’s just someone you have to know about):

What is your personal theme song/fight song/or get-you-through-the-hard-times song–the one that you play on repeat when you’re feeling most vulnerable? Why is that song the ​song? How does it tap into your strongly held convictions about what it means to be a whole human being? Write about the song’s significance to you personally; then if you can, write about any connections you can make to your own teaching.

Mine changes every so often, and then I hear Chaka, and I remember, really, is there any other choice?

Well, yes, some semesters there has been, and since I already knew this was coming, I’ve been thinking about where I am now, compared to where I was this time last year, and I’ve gotta say, that this time, it’s the fabulous Elton John, singing the fabulous, “I’m Still Standin’.” (Find lyrics here.) What a year, what a song, what a chorus:

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
Over the past year, I’ve heard, and I’ve told myself that if we let bad experiences define us, those who instigated the bad experiences move on, and we only wind up giving them our power. They win.
Well, guess what? Not this time.