I am sitting in my car waiting for someone after already having a conference call this morning, working with contractors this morning, and delivering people to a particular location. That is only the beginning of a long list of items I need to manage today. Today is catch-up day as there are no classes. I will be, however, busy. I began this blog the other day, but as you can see I did not get very far. What I wanted to focus on for this blog was my reaction to the Google Maps that my students presented late last week. I was quite impressed with some of the things that were in their maps, though I would admit some of them might have worked a little more diligently on their presentation specifics. All too often we do not realize the things we have in front of us on a daily basis. There is so much to the story of each of us that is not apparent when we merely look at the surface. There is so much to each of us that is part of our fabric and provides a sense of identity, but yet goes unnoticed. The pressure that many of my students feel on a daily basis comes to the fore in a variety of ways, but it takes thoughtfulness and attentiveness to begin to extract and interpret it.
We have been reading the John Irving novel, The Cider House Rules; perhaps more accurately, they are supposed to be reading. They will have some long hours over the next few days if they are to cover the assignment. That is one of the brutal parts of the summer. Things come so quickly and there is hardly time to absorb what is coming as it comes so quickly. Irving has such a descriptive way of seeing the world in which we live and he certainly is not afraid to take on elements of our lives that we do not speak about in proper company. It is what I believe compels us to keep reading. I remember the first time I assigned the text, having not completed it myself, and when I got to a particular scene in the first 100 pages or so, I was stunned at what I had assigned for my students to read. As I read the book, I found myself appreciating the candor of Irving’s style and the way he forced me to think about some issues that actually have some relevance to my life. As I am writing here and trying to imagine things about the world in which we live, sometimes I find myself hopeful and other times I find myself cynical. . . . literally a number of days (now into double-digits) have passed since I got to work on this. That might be longest in a while that I have not blogged. Between teaching, working on the Credit by Exam (CBE) essays and other work, it seems there are not enough hours in the day, but I also know my ACT 101 students are living that reality, so I doubt there is much sympathy from them on that. Back to the idea of being somewhat cynical about the world in which we live. As I was at breakfast this morning at the diner, again I am reading that 5 people were killed in one place in Oklahoma. It seems that daily we are hearing of multiple homicides because of the anger of a single person. Is the world actually more violent or do we merely have more ways to be provided this disturbing information? It is now because we are seeming on an endless string of what seems senseless that the media is making us more aware? I am not sure what to think, but I am convinced that we are on a path of seemingly senseless violence that I believe has to cut to the very core of what civil people would hope their world to be. I would be petrified to bring a child into this absurdity. Even as I write this yet another theater shooting has occurred. . . . It is Friday morning and I am working with two student groups to get them ready to present something at their banquet next Wednesday. It is interesting to me how their thought processes work as they move toward something. These are strong students and they are certainly thinking, but they struggle with analysis and the consequences of choice. It is a basic inability to make connections. This does not mean they are incapable, what it means, or at least I think, is that they have never been pushed to do so, and as such they are being asked to do something or accomplish something with little or no previous experience. This is the sort of thing that amazes me and I wonder if I was the same. From what I remember, I am pretty sure I was. In fact, I believe in many ways, I was slower then than they are now.
Thanks to mi familia de la dominicana, I am more inclined to pay attention to Latino/a issues and I have worked much harder to include bilingual aspects into this summer course. I wish my Spanish was more advanced than it is. En esta clase de verano tengo estudiantes puertorriqueños, estudiantes dominicanos, estudiantes colombianos, y estoy seguro que hay otro estudiante de un pais latino, pero he perdido la pista de cual es. Creo que le voy a preguntar a uno de ellos que trabaje conmigo este año que viene en mi español y trabajar como mi tutor. El estudiante no es dominicano, pero lo que será interesante es ver si veo algunas diferencias. Sospecho que si habran. Lo que me estoy dando cuenta una vez más es que intento hacer demasiado con muy poco tiempo. Este es uno de mis malos habitos y me mete en problemas, sobre todo conmigo mismo, pero a veces con otros tambien. Me han dicho varias veces que este es un problema que yo mismo me busco. Esta realización ha convertido mi verano muy triste en lo que me ha echo anticipar el otonio para tener menos trabajo.
It is almost 12:30 and there is a lot on my plate today. Soon I will be taking the students I have here at the Fog and Flame back up to campus. Then I need to run some errands and then it is back to the CBE work that is necessary to complete by next week. . . . how it is another week has gone by and I see more behind than every. Some of it is because of the time I have spent on my summer classes. I know that it takes more time that I can give during the academic year, but it is an important thing because I believe we are asking so much of so many who are not prepared for what is coming. In what manner are many least prepared (and I do not limit this to the summer, but the condensed format exasperates this deficiency)? It is having study habits or any kind of discipline that prepares them for the elevated demands of college writing (or any class for that matter). Studies show that the NCLB program and the propensity of “teaching to the test,” which seems to be the norm rather than the exception for many systems has left most students unprepared for any sort of critical thinking, analysis, and lacking the ability other than merely jumping through a hoop, which is seldom more than memorization/regurgitation. I know when I tell them that most of them have never really written a final paper in their English classes, they look at me as if I am from outer space. At least I am hoping that is why they look at that way. There might be other reasons. That is for another time. However, I must note that twice this past week I have been referred to as “that old white guy.” I am not beyond being called middle aged. When I consider my biological reality. It is a truism. I am certainly not in the middle years of my life any longer.
That brings me back to the idea of a different reality. What would my life be if I had not moved to Menomonie, somewhat at the last minute? I was not really looking for a job when that option was shared with me by my chair, Dr. Robert Johnson. It started a cascade of events that eventually led me to Bloomsburg and where I am not. So many people get caught up in the idea of if it were possible to go back to an earlier point in their lives or if they might do things over again. I think I have noted that I would not wish for such a thing, and I believe that is still where I find myself today. There are certainly too many things that have been painful, but those things are part of who I am. They are certainly part of the reason I find it pretty easy to be empathetic and to desire to help another person. There are too many times (even yet) where I have felt, and still feel, more on the outside looking in than most might imagine. I am that lonely-in-a-crowd person. I am not lamenting that, just stating how I see things. What I realize each day is that we are given a gift. It is the gift of time. This past soon to be six weeks, I have 21 remaining students who have had to pay for an opportunity to come to class. I understand it is hard to see the opportunistic aspect of something when you are paying a lot of money for it. Nonetheless, it is an opportunity, one which I believe the President of the university laid out quite well for them the other night. The money they have spent for the summer can be replaced, perhaps not immediately, but it can be replaced. In fact, they can even make more money than they might have had before, but the one thing we cannot replace is the time that is gone. There is no option to relive something. I am realizing that time is the most valuable commodity we have. I wish I might have realized that as clearly as I do now much earlier. Then I might have made better use of the many hours or days I wasted be it being lazy, being stupid, being intoxicated, or being a number of other things that I could have probably done better. The reality is this. Life is . . . what we do with that gift is entirely up to each of us. Certainly others influence us and there are many things that influence our realities, but when we are put into the corner and have to look out, how we manage it is entirely up to us. I am grateful to so many people who have influenced me. I know more than I have ever known, but what I know most is how little I know and how blessed I have been. Here is a song that sort of spells it out for me at this point.
This is a song that means as much to me as perhaps any song I have ever heard. Thanks for reading and listening.