n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Monday, March 03, 2008

not bad, not bad at all

For some reason, this tickled my funnybone. Maybe I find it ironic that she has to press for a years' old love promise in order to get herself a cup of coffee. Ah, but what one is promised and then denied in love!


Just so's you know, I'm doing pretty well these days despite the anxiety surrounding not being able to support myself on my two days a week night-class. And, I guess, despite a skinheart stircrazy that has perhaps to do with toiling the Chicago winter, but also with that readiness to move on and discover how to return without returning.

Despite that.

But I mean, oddly enough, I'm fairly well-content. No big angsty moments, no dangerous emotions spiraling down. I feel well-fed and well-loved not to mention strangely hopeful.

Yesterday was a big + thump on that score, as the temperature in Chicago went (a billion and) twenty degrees up, yes maybe temporarily, but ah the incredible glee of not needing a coat, only a sweatshirt after months and months of storm-burrowing. And the sound of our mineloads of snow melting, rushing hither and so very rapidly revealing a touch of green. As I walked around the neighborhood, groups of boys roamed the alleys, throwing about the remaining snow before chasing each other, sweaty and large-mouthed, dashing their winterlong hair out of their eyes. I saw one group of men playing soccer, and a group of poodles wearing black pom-pom protectors on their ankles. On top of it all, the first smell of spring, a warm wind that might almost be called a bluster.

There's no doubt that this has been a hard, very long winter here, and lh bet me it will last a month longer (in the news, predictions of another deep snow tomorrow), but perhaps the sky's finally made some form of promise. And I have to say, one of the best attributes of Chicago, visible every year I've been here, is the sweetlollydashing talktalk with which the aft-wintered urbanites greet each other - visibly, loudly, generously. Nobody will talk to strangers more than a Chicago-ite after winter.

And then there's the class I'm teaching, which fills me with pleasant gripes and tribulations. It's an odd class, nominally a Comp I class, but in practice something closer to Principles of Writing. My students barely know how to compose a sentence, much less a paragraph, and it took me too long to figure that out. I came in primed to teach analysis and critical thinking, and have swerved to teach compound sentences, topic sentences, and basic reading skills. All these I don't mind teaching, but I resent walking into a class expecting students who had tested, or worked their way into, a particular form of college-writing class, only to find out that I need to back up several, or rather a lot of, steps.

In addition to this, I'm under the impression that this class represents a whole bunch of unexpected work for these students. They aren't turning anything in, and I've resorted to threatening their grades, which I fucking hate to do; I like students to negotiate their own obsession or interest in grades without me having to refer to them ever, or even at all. I'm pretty straightforward about my grading criteria and the school's grading criteria, and then I expect to not have to mention it ever again. I mean, call me crazy, but I tend to think of teaching as the mission to generate know-how and conversation, not me guarding the gates. I've always thought my deal was to help them through the door. So it makes me feel like a tremendously crappy teacher to have to say, "Hey you, do your fucking work or I'll bust your butt back to Timbuktu."

But nooooo, no. These students don't turn in 50% of their work, and I've already cut back the workload I assign by at least 75% since my heady T.A.ing days. I can't cut it down any more or there won't even be the slightest point. But it's been hard sticking to this, because most of my students are working immigrant (or first-generation) Hispanic parents without home access to computers. How can they type their essays, they like to ask me, if they don't have anything to type them on? So... in a bold and brazen mode, I shifted 1/3 of the class-time to open-lab writing, but even that is not nearly enough. Then again, I again and again watch them fritter this time away nattering on about their shoes or the dance scene. (They think I don't speak enough Spanish to know they are yapping about topics outside of our class. It's become one of my daily pleasures to never reveal I know a fair amount of Spanish while simultaneously demonstrating that I know exactly what they're saying.)

Boy, that sounded like a full-out gripe session.

But this is my strange, twisted pleasure. I really enjoy teaching. I remember this so many times in a single class. I love these students; I appreciate that they've given me their trust. I vow to never let that trust down, and to help them succeed in every way I can. I promise I'll never lie to them, tell them I understand something when I don't. And there it is: being in class is a pleasure, and watching them laugh or smile or enjoy an exercise even as it teaches them something they want or need to know, well, it makes me dreadfully content, and so it goes.

Yah, so life humdrum, lack of cute datable women, and everything in transit, ain't really that bad. And on top of it, I received a phone-message from an abroad loved-one, plus my buddy took me out to fabulous Lebanese food today, and I truly stuffed my face.
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