Teacher tells you stop your play and get on with your work

4 10 2012

Oy, is teaching takin’ it out of me this semester. In a good way.

Last semester I taught 2 courses on Tues-Thurs and 1 course Mon-Wed. Which meant I was commuting from Brooklyn to the Bronx 4 days a week. Which sucked.

This semester I’m only commuting twice a week, which is nice for my back and my general attitude, and which also means I have time to work the unfortunately-necessary-second-job at a place I’ve worked on-and-off for years (in the Financial District, although not of the Financial District).

So, y’know, two days a week at school, two days (Mon & Fri) at the office, three days a week at home: easy-peazy, right? Ha.

The office job is pretty low-stress, but by 6pm on Thursday, I am DONE teaching. My voice is hoarse, the tip of my tongue for some reason numb, my hair is askew (okay, my hair is often askew), and I am covered in chalk dust. I’m not sure how or why I get chalk dust everywhere, but I do.

Have I mentioned I’m really enjoying this semester?

My American govt students are bit quiet, but they are generally attentive and ask good questions, and they do have their moments. Things get livelier in my bioethics course, with students popping up with comments and questions and what-ifs and, most importantly, they’re right there when it comes to the implications of biotechnologies.

And then my contemporary political issues class. Man. This is full of high-schoolers from a number of schools in the Bronx who trek on to campus to take college courses. I had a bit of bummer experience with a similar group of students spring semester—they would not fucking participate—but this group, whoo, this group requires me to shout and wave my arms and signal like Bruce Willis near the end of Die Hard 2 trying to bring the plane in a for a safe landing. (Or am I misremembering that, too?)

Anyway, it’s not really a good thing that the class is so unruly, but in a course like this, where they really do have to participate, I’d rather have them too into it than not at all. This is the first time I’m teaching this course, so I’d expect that next semester I’ll have a better handle on how things should go, but in the meantime, I’m enjoying how willing they are to mix it up.

I just need some more damned coffee. And throat lozenges.


Just you shut your mouth

7 02 2012

Planned Parenthood! Susan G. Komen! Abortion! Breast cancer! Pink ribbons! Want to hear more?

I didn’t think so.

One of the nice things about writing a blog on my own time, as opposed to for someone else, is that I don’t have to cover topics which have been more than adequately covered by plenty o’ other folk. I might cover them, if I am sufficiently moved to do so, but I don’t feel that I have to get a word in edgewise.

Okay, so that’s not exactly true: I do—often—feel the need to get in a word not only edgewise but front and center under a big ol’ spotlight. I want you know that I thought of this incredibly insightful profound provocative amazing idea and I want you to give a standing ovation to ME ME M-FUCKING-E ME!*

I am not pretty on the inside; I am a nine-year-old diva on the inside.

On the outside, however, I am a middle-aged broad who has learned, with some effort, to enjoy the freedom of not having to respond to everything all of the time. (Yes, I could link to that xkcd comic, but since you already know which one I’m talking about, well, there’s really no need, is there?) I may want a particular point to be made, but I no longer have to be the one to make it.

Doesn’t mean I don’t want to be, or that I don’t take a rather unseemly (for a middle-aged-broad) delight  in being the first to bang out the observation, but if someone else gets there before me, or better (or worse?) yet, says it in a manner more profound or pithier or funnier than I would have, well, I holster my hands and lean back.

Yeah, shit gets done and reputations made by folks who can’t help but elbow others to get in front, but as someone who used to go all-in every time, it’s kinda nice to hang back.

And, hey, if it also allows me to conserve my energy for those moments when I shriek BANZAIIII!!!! and leap into the fray, that’s just cake.

(*In homage to my friend M., who, twenty years ago, shouted this on a late-night downtown local train platform.)

Martin Luther King, Jr.: American political philosopher

16 01 2012

Every man must ultimately confront the question, “Who am I?” and seek to answer it honestly. One of the first principles of personal adjustment is the principle of self-acceptance. The Negro’s greatest dilemma is that in order to be healthy he must accept his ambivalence. The Negro is the child of two cultures—Africa and America. The problem is that in the search for wholeness all too many Negroes seek to embrace only one side of their natures. Some, seeking to reject their heritage, are ashamed of their color, ashamed of black arts and music, and determine what is beautiful and good by the standards of white society. They end up frustrated and without cultural roots. Others seek to reject everything American and to identify totally with Africa, even to the point of wearing African clothes. But this approach leads also to frustration because the American negro is not African. The old Hegelian synthesis still offers the best answer to many of life’s dilemmas. The American Negro is neither totally African nor totally Western. He is Afro-American, a true hybrid, a combination of two cultures.

Who are we? We are the descendants of slaves. We are teh offspring of noble men and women who wer kidnapped from thie native land and chained in ships like beasts. We are the heirs of a great and exploited continent known as Africa. We are the heirs of a past of rope, fire, and murder. I for one am not ashamed of this past. My shame is for those who became so inhuman that they could inflict this torture upon us.

But we are also Americans. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. In spite of the psychological appeals of identification with Africa, the Negro must face the fact that America is now is home, a home that he helped to build through blood, sweat, and tears. Since we are Americans the solution to our problem will not come through seeking to build a separate black nation within a nation, but by finding that creative minority of the concerned from the ofttimes apathetic majority, and together moving toward that colorless power that we need for security and justice.

In the first century B.C., Cicero said: “Freedom is participation in power.” Negroes should never want all power because they would deprive others of their freedom. By the same token, Negroes can never be content without participation in power. America must be a nation in which its multiracial people are partners in power. This is the essence of democracy towards which all Negro struggles have been directed since the distant past when he was transplanted here in chains.

Martin Luther King, responding to the Black Power movement, in Where Do We Go From Here?