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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

bad teaching day

Okay, For starters. I'm in a job where I teach students not what I want to teach folks--which would be about imagining and re-seeing the world we live in, messing it through our writer brains intricately, i.e. teaching folks to see the details, the actual events of existence and the imagined characteristics of self and the elements of the world we actually care about; but not just some abstract entities we involve our intellects with because we think that's what will get us in, to toe the line, or maybe indicate that we've regurgitated some information that someone, somewhere, some particular entity wanted us to regurgitate because that's who our teacher or mother or boss is, but not who we are, because our lives are so potentially despondent that we and outsiders want to align our young minds into the intricate mechanisms they/we imagine the world to need on some kind of sci-fi level, or maybe creative level, but really it's more about our own wants and needs; no, no not any of that but because learning is instead some pure kind of thought where maybe we hope our students will win, yep, win in the intricate balancing job of thought versus living--really (hopefully without an ulcer) a realm where fantasy, heroism, character, story, and the immense diversity of facts and statistics and descriptions find way into a non-linear, non-self-centered understanding of existence, no no no, not any of that, but that dream I had last night with all of my students and all of my friends, all of us moving to Moscow, Russia, and dealing with the American Dream in exile, but no, not that, but what really they, us, students and individuals for themselves decide to achieve with our minds, our future imaginary children and pets and animal-children, and so thus teach Us (the ironic 'teachers') what a driven mind is actually fully capable of when it understands itself as both invested in and outside the story that will, in this instance, be told (which I dream of, in some kind of world, as being beyond my comprehension because it's so complex, smart, and tipping over with hope, compassion, and intelligent action that it leaves my cynical mind adrift in my own passive complacency)--but what I instead (it's not just instead but in tandem) teach them because it's supposed to get them somewhere (learning for self-profit vs. learning for progress, hopefully more than I, personally would every be able to teach). What a hyck, really, this teaching. What a fucking academic boner.

I feel more and more that what I do is simply for a paycheck, didn't feel that way before. And, as paychecks go, it's rather irregular.

I was working today to explore that very interesting facet of writing called "paragraphing" and I gave students this god-awful, simplistic, rendered-down three-sentence paragraph to compare with a more developed paragraph with definitions and development about the distinction between a fantasy realm and the specific reality it was related to. And my students yelled and critiqued the well-developed, published, factually-specific paragraph in favor of the abstract, dumbafied paragraph. I got flustered, angry, tempered my anger, tried to explain, then realized that I honestly felt like: if you can't see the value of specific thought versus abstract bullshit, what is it that I'm qualified/able to say to make you actually think? Then realized that this is my job. This is what I do. I ended up wondering what made me (me!) qualified to be that person who tries to get people to think.

But, yes, I'm pretty sure, I hope, I try, that is: I've always thought. It seems like a thing to do. I recognize that some think this way, and others think that way, maybe I even think a rather silly way, but I still don't have a clue how to get people to think in the first place, since, for me, it seems practical, ethical, crucial, rewarding, and ultimately more interesting than spouting.

I mean, I feel like I've had it. That I truly find trying to "open minds" and "create conversation" beyond my personal ability. I feel like when students, upon reflection, find blank discourse meaningful... that I have found the boundaries of language, and don't know what to say.

I'm really, seriously thinking about re-training options. New fields. I just don't know how to become a doctor and still be invested in art.

P.S. I know all my three readers are awesome, but I don't know if ya'll will have teaching suggestions on this one; how does one speak to a wide population about the similarity between greenhouse gasses and the gasses released in Nazi showers (for instance) when folks want to think about everything abstractly (I didn't even go so far as to use that comparison, but I wanted to...)...? I realize that my job is not to change the world, but I do think of the potential meaning of my job as related to my ability to teach folks to draw connections... and I'm having a problem moving beyond teaching anything but what my students come into class wanting--specifically--to learn. Is that really learning? Am I really a teacher? If I'm barely making enough to pay my loans, but also not making any impact whatsoever, what should I consider doing instead? Math, Science, Health and Engineering? Which career could a transition to that action that would actually make me feel relevant, helpful, heard, a superhero a la Wonder Woman or maybe just an unnamed Amazon wandering with worlds on her tongue and an island of exiles in her past? Certainly, somehwere, a meaningful adult vocation has an answer to my astrologicalish question...
I'd be curious to see your class's group dynamics on that discussion about the paragraphs. Sometimes groups come to totally off-the-wall conclusions just because of who said what first. And it doesn't really have much to do with what any of them individually really think. That said, I have no idea how to make people actually think or admit that they are thinking.
As for the first part of that, yes, I had the feeling that others in the class wanted to focus on different aspects of the discussion. And I always have those in class who want to use Yoda and Manga as metaphors for the (often intelligent but round about) ideas they want to talk about. Then there are those students who know *exactly* what I want to talk about and wiggle in their seats out of embarrassment that the rest of class hasn't been intuitive enough to read my mind. Plus those who are simply curious and willing to participate (or argue) against anything that comes along. Etc. Yep.

I feel like all of this should be healthy, but I don't know how to make it healthy when I feel like the topic is simple, not even ready for such healthy debate. That I'm supposed to be teaching them both writing and thinking at the same time, but sometimes I focus on writing and have to suspend the thinking side of things, but then they get confused and think they're supposed to tell me I'm full of shit, because that's what thinking people do, but I'm just trying to talk about paragraphs, you know, not like it's hugely controversial. But then they focus on the ideas in the paragraph, and suddenly it *is* actually controversial because global warming just happens to be controversial for reasons I don't understand, and then I'm distracted because I don't want to debate with born-again capitalists the worthwhile nature of considering biospheres, when actually that's not the focus of class.

But to their credit, I *do* try to sneak in my message, often environmentally concerned, even if what I'm focusing on is bloody paragraphs. So, it could be my fault, in that maybe if I focus on paragraphs, I should focus on boring, apolitical, no meaning paragraphs... just to have a rhetorical focus and not be distracted by derailing items of conversation.

'Course, maybe I put too much into it, this whole stupid teaching thing.

Anyhow: I have serious teaching issues. Big time. And with no support structure at all in place for any of these genuine concerns to be dealt with, except by me just dealing, by myself, because I get paid, because I do care, because I have a degree, and I think sometimes that some very simple issues become big ones because I don't know who to talk about them with. Certainly nobody I work with. (I got chewed out today for working in a computer lab, after a month of working in the computer lab, after having discussed it with the department head, who was the one who kinda chewed me out [at the bequest of another, administrative, department], even though my students have no computer lab, no writing or learning center, no library, no nothing apparently, available to them because it's the summer session, and the only people who need computer labs are my class and the administrative folks who are giving placement tests and ratting me out to my department boss because they can't talk to me in person and of course, what I need is more people telling me I've fucked up in some way or another).

As for the second issue; Yeah. How does one learn that?

SSS: I would say you know how to do the former, for sure though. At least always with me.
SSS: I meant latter. As in, you make people think. Not the former though, as in you deal well with paragraphs.
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