Tag Archives: death

Wait, where am I?

28 Feb

Freshmen are precious little gifts from the academic g/God(s). While I empathize with (now more than ever) the individual challenges and personal issues each student has that I’m blissfully unaware of, I can’t help but find it funny — and maybe a little bit of offense — in the things that come out of their mouths.

I recently gave a lecture on Salvador Dalí to prepare the class for their evaluative essays on art, thinking that they would enjoy writing about pretty paintings and sculptures more than books (plus it forces them out into the community to actually look at local art). A student who’d been absent for the last two weeks looks at me and say, “I thought this was English class.” Confused, I looked around the room, and replied, “Wait, where am I?” Then gave my best really?! look and proceeded with my (Sur)really awesome lecture.

Puns!

Today has been one of the most difficult days of teaching so far, probably because everything seems to be culminating all at once in every aspect of my life.

Academically and professionally, I’m completing my thesis, still waiting to hear back from PhD programs (any day now!), preparing to organize and present at a conference next week, staring at stacks of 100+ student papers and annotated bibliographies to grade (which I’m constantly reminded of during each class when a student asks when they’ll get back the papers they turned in last class), and preparing to go to a huge national conference in two weeks which adds more work because now I need to figure out alternate assignments for the days I’ll be gone.

Romantically, (hah! I say that in jest, of course) there’s not much going on aside from realizing my selections keep getting more and more outlandish. I did, however, write a long, heart-wrenching letter to Red Ranger who I’ve loved for years, telling him exactly how I feel. He wrote an equally long letter that explored the philosophical underpinnings of romantic love vs. universal love. It’s probably the best written, most philosophical “it’s not you, it’s me” piece of bullshit I’ve ever come across.

Personally, and the impetus for my complete love of all of my students despite the nonsensical things they say, I found out last night that a long-time family friend committed suicide.

He was 20.

To write about it and see these letters come together to form that sentence is bearable, only because I’m not entirely sure it’s real. But to say it out loud destroyed me.

Teaching today was damn near impossible because in every one of their faces, I saw his face. He was a student. An RA. He sat in classes, made excuses for not having his work done in time, rushed home to finish the assignment before the extended deadline. He laughed at corny jokes made by desperate professors.

And as much as I wanted to be a hardass on them because they had annotated bibliographies due today and I knew a lot of them still weren’t following directions, I couldn’t. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s okay to be more human and forgiving in classes, because it really should be okay to be more human and forgiving in the “real world,” where second chances are given and we don’t have a set formula for how to deal with circumstance. All too often we take this prescriptivist approach to teaching or simply being citizens in this global community, rendering in “Situation 1, Action A correlates with Consequence B,” rather than taking into account the thousand, tiny multipliers to the human element.

I wanted to give each one of them a hug and tell them that they’re important, because they are — to me, to each other, to this entire experience of life. I wanted to tell them that even though I know very little about their lives, they’re all going to be okay. They’re allowed to make mistakes. They’re allowed to be hurt or disappointed. They’re allowed to be human.

What today reminded me is that while I have all of these extracurricular issues going on in my own life, I put my business face on and be the most helpful, cheerful, positive teacher I can be.

And so do so many of my students. I forget that sometimes.

So I hang onto their witty quips (“Look who decided to show up” when I’m exactly on time rather than ten minutes early due to a snowstorm), random statements of truth (“Snow makes me believe in the possibility of unicorns”), and grateful emails (when I am made aware of their circumstances and make arrangements to help them successfully complete the coursework) to tide me through and remind me of just how human they can be.

–AM.

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The Beatles were right.

20 Dec

I started this blog as a safe place to process the ridiculous things I somehow manage to get myself into without any of the ugliness of the world seeping into it. I never wanted to write anything serious, because I can deal with that in my every day life. But sometimes things change, and this is a necessary adjustment. So take this as a fair warning of a temporary no humor zone.

It’s always taken me awhile to process things; especially big things, like suddenly becoming a grown up, being alone, and calculus. What I, along with everyone else who’s aware of the atrocities that happened in Connecticut have come to realize, is there’s really no safe place.

In America, we carry on our lives with rose colored glasses. I’m fortunate enough to have lived most of my life not knowing pain, or hunger, or thirst, or hate. My parents did as all parents wish to do for their children: they protected us and shielded us from the nastiness of the world. They let us see the good things and experience love. I’ve recognized this more and more as I get older, because even though with all my education, I think I understand the way things work, I still have no clue and I don’t think I ever will. So much surprises me, and I don’t know how to process that.

I have an undying sense of hope in me; an innate trust of all things good, because that’s what I’ve known. Even as a child, after being warned not to stick my fingers into the rabbit cage because it does indeed bite, I repeatedly inserted each one of my tiny fingers between the bars because I thought I could change the rabbit because I trusted it. Bloodied and bandaged, I had only a couple fingers left before I gave up.

And as easy as it is right now to give up because the whole world is bloodied and bandaged with just a few fingers left, I have to remember why I kept trying. We all have to remember why we keep trying. I go through phases where I refuse to watch the news because it hurts too much to see the pain that I’ve never had to live through because I feel like I’m being selfish; like I’m spoiled because I’ve had it so easy. And I feel guilt.

I was in the third grade in Colorado when the shootings at Columbine happened. Before then, we’d never practice code red drills. My older sister and cousin who lived with us were in high school, and I remember being terrified it’d happen to them. I can still remember practicing in my head what, exactly, I would do if someone came into my school. I’d pretend to be dead already. I was small, and I knew I couldn’t fight. So I’d lay there and hope it’d be over soon. And I remember thinking how silly I was being; people don’t kill kids.

As a teacher at a university and community college, part of the training I go through is brief preparation for what to do if there’s a dangerous person on campus. I have campus security on speed dial. I often dream that I’m being overtaken by someone as a way for my subconscious to make a plan. That’s something my mother always taught me: have a plan for every possible situation. So I practice in my head. I have my whole life.

The news and social media networks are riddled with opinions about what to do in the wake of the 27 murders — the shooter’s mother, 6 women at the elementary school, and 20 children; babies. Some say tighten up and enforce current gun control laws. Others say completely ban all weapons. Some are up in arms about the thought of their guns being taken away, while others focus on the need to reevaluate our mental health system in the United States.

I don’t know what the answer is. If I did, I surely wouldn’t be sitting in my pajamas, writing a blog about it in the warm, comfort of my home. The only thing I know how to do is cry, which I hate, because I’m not one for tears. I don’t really think anybody knows the answer.

What I do know is we’re bleeding. Not just America, but the whole world. Senseless deaths happen all too often, and for what? And how do we remember them? By blaming machines? By locking up those who think differently than the rest of us? By interviewing children who witnessed this travesty and blasting it on news outlets for ratings? By becoming even more divided, ensuring a complete political gridlock?

A writing prompt I often give my students is “The world needs more…” and almost every time, several students give the same reply: love. It sounds so simple and so cliche. It’s cliche because it works. It’s cliche because it’s true. One thing I have noticed after the shootings is the outpouring of love. I hope it doesn’t stop.

I’m still trying to process this. Like I said, I’m a little slow, and something so unknowable now has to be known.

I joke about not wanting kids, but in all honesty, I want to be a mother someday. I always have. And even though there are terrible, ugly things in this world, I have to keep remembering the beautiful things and trying to give the world a little bit more of what my students all say. And even though those lives were cut too short and in such a violent, horrible way, they had a small time on this earth, and their death is an awful reminder of just how mortal we are and how important it is to love.

–AM .

post publish edits

I can’t stop thinking and I can’t stop being angry at the conversation surrounding the shooting.

The biggest thing I think we forget is that it takes a village to raise a genius; an idiot; a hero; or a murderer. We created this. We don’t support each other like we should. We don’t empathize. We don’t find solutions, but rather, create more problems and frustrations in line with stringent partisan agendas. We’ve lost our sense of community, and I think that’s what hurts me the most. The only sense of community I ever see is in the short time after a tragedy. And when I say “short,” I really mean miniscule. Within hours of the news, people were already arguing and setting up their camps.

That’s not community. That’s not helpful. That’s not productive.

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