Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Source

Anton Chekov, the guy who pretty much invented the modern short story, the medical doctor who saved hundreds of lives (for practically free), was wrong. And what's more, he was wrong about writing. Way back in the 1900's (and this isn't some post-modern nostalgic way back in the 1990's, but actually way back around 1905) Chekov commented to a concerned family member that happy people write sad stories and those in pain write happy stories. I'm pretty positive he was full of it, totally depressed, and didn't want to talk about it. Writing comes from a deep place inside that you can't, and shouldn't, try to separate from yourself. Just ask every other writer out there, in fact don't even ask them, just read a random book, short story, or poem. It's right there in the words. People write what they know. I'm not here to criticize or laud one over the other. Writing with happiness and sadness both have their merits and have both given us fantastic literature that has lasted longer than you or I will. But in this contemporary society we live in numbness is the new depression, a lack of any strong feeling except self pity. The great writers of the post-modern age (whatever that is) have used this idea to feed off of. They have formed deep, well-planned, emotional opinions about what this means and how to live with/through it. But, for the rest of us does it mean an inability to express beautifully what we mean to say. People 150 years ago could write...well, let me rephrase that--literate people 150 years ago could write. There are countless letters from those with much less than the degree I've earned who could express thoughts beautifully. With all of these means of freedoms of expression have we as a culture lost our ability to feel something at our core when it is most necessary. Take some time to seriously consider what you are feeling, whether it be happiness, excitement, sadness, or pain. Ignorance has cut us deeper than any grief might have, we've too often lost our ability to experience and survive through what has been for centuries the source of our greatest means of communication--story telling.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

This Post Brought to You By...

What do you do when you are tired of being in sessions about teaching? Well, at first it was do work for the next week of actually teaching, but I've gotten pretty tired of that too, so it's on to writing the nearly, but not quite, forgotten blog. You see my week, every day, nearly every hour is taken up with thinking about my classroom, my lesson plans, my tests and quizzes, and my students and their success. It takes a lot of energy and it takes a lot of work and a lot of stress to get through all of these things--not much of a break you might guess. So when I have to go to Saturday Professional Development days you might guess that it is not the number one thing on my wish list for the day. Not even top ten actually. Instead of bringing the intense focus to Saturdays that I give to my school five days a week, which might actually kill me, as Mark Zuckerberg/Jessie Eisenberg would say to Saturday PD's, "You have part of my attention--you have the minimum amount." That's right I'm still remotely culturally relevant even as a middle school teacher. The rest of my attention is back planning for the next week, is developing my next unit test, is considering how in the world I am going to get a kid who hates school to love reading and writing.

Until of course my brain looks like the fried egg in that "this is your brain on drugs" commercial (cultural relevancy points dropping as I write, I know)--probably a poor analogy considering my work is in an attempt to avoid this trajectory for my students, but for some reason it's more fitting than any other I can think of (further proof it's a fitting analogy?) Now that my brain is a fried egg, I'm writing this blog instead of working on my lesson plans and unit exams. So I know my students won't experience quite the scattered craziness I've got going on right now. To you, my faithful readers, I must apologize for the "clear as mud" post. So what's the moral of today's post? (This is taking on a really odd PSA announcement tone). It might be don't do drugs, or don't become a teacher. But, I think one that would better help us all is give us teachers a break every now and again, it will help your kids I promise--and don't do drugs.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Yes, this is an obligation post. Posting on the blog has been heavy on my mind lately and to be honest there's no room for it on my mind. I've got 120 students to think about now, which means 120 families to think about, homework lessons, tests, quizzes, worksheets, drills, speeches, lectures, lessons, and probably a lot more that I can't think of right now. So, I'm posting here to make sure that at least someone is still reading and checking in every now and again. One of these days it will get to be regular...or die out completely--it's pretty 50 50 right now I think. Anyway, this is not too foreign to the practiced writer. We all at one point or another have had to fill an obligation. Writing-based obligations are always harder for me than most others though. I feel such a strong sense of need to attach emotion and passion to writing, because writing is such a strong medium of communication and expression. As the freedom fighting protagonist of V for Vendetta states, "Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who listen, the annunciation of truth." Words are the method of understanding what is fundamentally important to our being. They provide, for us, an understanding of what is true, what should be felt from the depths of our very souls. And obligation writing tears at the fibers of this writing structure threatening to unravel this marvel of a tapestry (hows that for a metaphor). So how do we get around it. Put simply--we do not. Instead we continue to write and think and edit and write some more. We work and we write until the passion returns. For here is the beautiful thing about something that is essentially (in the second definition kind of way) built on truths, emotions, and passionate fire--it cannot die a death of obligation and boredom. No writer, if he continues to write, can lose what is most important about the words he puts on the page or impresses upon the screen. Like the ash-covered coals of an unkempt fire, the passion is nestled deep in the heart and mind of the writer still warm ready to spark anew with words of truth pouring forth.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Sorry for the delay in posts, and the shortness of the present post. You see I've recently entered the work force. I am an officially active Teach For America 2011 Corps Member. I started about a week and a half ago and I'm not sure if I've really slept since then, much less had time to make a post. As you might have guessed Teach For America is a program that cultivates...anyone?...yes, that's right, teachers. I've been learning the ins and outs of program management, investment plans, curriculum writing, lesson developing. Basically a four year education on education in about 6 weeks. To say the least, it's ambitious. And with such high goals the idea of a "job" goes out the window. No longer does the work and personal life exist (except on the ever coveted weekend). Teaching, apparently isn't that easy, and it takes a lot of time, effort, and caring on the teacher's part. So the whole 9-5 idea is basically a joke...wallstreet? please. Try Sesame Street. Up at 5:15 and I don't get a break in my day until 9 or so at night. For all you English majors out there that means about 16 hours of work a day. Or to put it another way two full work days in a single day. But, I'm thinking this is the boot camp of teaching. They'll beat you down for the next 5 weeks and you'll come out in the fall cleaning up and destroying the evil Achievement Gap with ease. This theory would be great except that the leaders continually remind us scrubs that we will inevitably fail, it will be hard and we won't get it for a few months. I'm determined to prove them wrong. I will be prepared, I will be confident, and I will be a great teacher--Just as soon as I get a few hours where I don't have to think about the next poster I need to make.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Graduate

June 3, Day 13 of being a graduate from Dickinson College and so far the real world is pretty nice. I must admit, I haven't experienced any real world kinds of things yet though, so my opinion is probably a little skewed. Let me just take you through the past couple of weeks briefly. Graduation day: Unfortunately our original Commencement speaker backed out at the last second because he thought leading the Army in Afghanistan was too important (guess you can't blame him, that's a pretty good excuse, maybe next time Petraeus). So we had another guy, but at least his was short. Ceremony went of without a hitch, beautiful weather, graduation party following that. Post-Graduation Days: Two days after that I got to sit around the house and do just about nothing. Now I can't confirm this, but I'm pretty sure that is not what this so called real world consists of, so these days aren't providing a great basis either. Post-Post-Graduation Days: Now here's where it gets interesting. Going to a school like Dickinson you're bound to have friends in high places, and for a week I was lucky enough to experience the perks of such a friendship. I got a week's vacation in sunny South Beach, where the water is clear, the lights are bright, and the breeze is cool. Sitting on the beach all day, wandering Miami at night, eating out every day, and staying in a condo on the 33rd floor of the Continuum South Tower. Oddly none of these characteristics have been listed in the "real world" definitions I've received. Luckily I've got another two and a half weeks to live up this hiatus from the real world before my rude awakening officially begins on June 21 where I start my tenure as a TFA corps member. Until then though, I plan to take full advantage of these weeks. Not a bad way to start out in the real world--with a nice long vacation. (Readers: don't be too quick to jealousy just yet, in a few months I'll be teaching a classroom in inner-city Baltimore and complaining about how harsh the real world is. So don't fret, rude awakening countdown now begins: 17 days till real world lift off.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Paper, What Paper?

I have five days of undergraduate work left as I write this post. One exam to take on Monday and one paper to turn in on Thursday (encouraged to be turned in earlier, but let's be honest that's never gonna happen). I take this time to write a post now because one: I'm not worried about the exam, two: I need to think about something other than this paper, and three: This is a great means of procrastination and there's no use in trying to change my study habits so late in the game. So in an effort to free my mind, momentarily, of the huge amount of work I have in the next few days, I'm writing about the huge amount of work I have in the next few days. Sure it seems counter-intuitive, and definitely counter-productive, but I think most people do this. From what I gather a lot of people like to talk about their work instead of doing it; it seems to be a stress reliever of some kind. I'd say I'm a pretty knowledgable source on the matter considering I live on a college campus, and everyone knows college students are both terrible workers and great complainers. And, for the most part we're pretty chilled out. At least that's what all those old folks say about us young whippersnappers. "Take advantage, don't know the value of a dollar, college isn't real life, blah, blah, blah." So, they might be right. But I wasn't so worried about all that. This method had carried me through so many years of school it was bound to work during my college years too. And so it did, but I'm beginning to get a little skeptical. Perhaps this method carried me through all my college years, minus one paper. And it is this fateful paper that I have left to complete before I walk across that stage and accept my $200,000 piece of paper. So basically I've got 200 grand riding on this assignment, and still I'm not really that moved to do work. There's got to be something wrong with that, right? I'm sure there is, but I can't seem to form a coherent thought about the idea. Come to think of it, my brain has not really been firing on all cylinders this week. Not the greatest news when I've got a deadline careening towards me at the speed of light (give or take a mph or two). So, I guess I'll just do what I always do. Let the adrenaline set in, hope for one more stroke of brilliance, try not to have too many typos, and pray to God that my frantic typing makes some sense. Until then, you can find me surfing the web or playing brick breaker 'cause, you know, college isn't real life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Desperate Hope

I'm not sure I can make generalizations about the Bible at all. But, if I had to I would say that it is meant for our spiritual growth. The Sermon on the Mount is often pointed to as a premiere passage of the New Testament. At first glance this makes a lot of sense. It is a sermon on the "do's and don'ts" of Christianity. It is Christ telling the people what they must do to get to heaven. Then, you begin to realize, "No way in Hell is this happening." I mean, no way ever, not even for an hour is this possible. This is a speech of extremes. "Don't murder, and don't be angry." "Don't commit adultery, and don't lust." Yeah, ok, no problem--So much for spiritual growth. I've already ruined it four times while writing this post. This passage drives you into the ground. The more I read the more I dig my own grave. My life is over, there's no getting around this one. Sermon on the Mount--you've ended all hope in me. It's reached into my soul and shown a light on its blackness; it's personal. But Christ doesn't end with this Sermon. He offers hope outside of ourselves. The sermon is where we need to start for us to know in our hearts that it is true when he says "I do this for you, I do this for you alone." The creator of all things dies for dirty, desperate people. His best friends, the ones who we study as scripture today, were thieves, adulterers, blasphemers, and murderers. Let me say it again, these were his best friends! There must still be hope yet. The greatest followers of Christ were filth, and he taught them to love--and taught me to love them. Looking to Christ's love gives me hope, gives me love that I cannot claim as my own. And, that is spiritual growth, that is everlasting life.