Wednesday, May 25, 2011

tiptoeing around; or, when you need to vent, but you shouldn't

I undertand how people get fired for things they say on their blog. Bloggers are writers. Writers process their experiences, emotions, their very lives through words. Some people can do this privately for themselves in a secret journal; but for some of us, these words are stories and they must be told. So, it is easy to see how a blogger could say too much or the wrong thing and cross an undrawn line. Blogs are still relatively new and the ettiquette is vague, at best. So, today this blogger is going to tell a story. If it seems lacking in details... that is on purpose.

It has been a hard, hard, hard year in my teaching. There has been student event after student event that needed handling. Legal things. Embarassing things. Ethical things. Sad things. A lot of things. Some of this became public, some much too public. And through it all, I did my best to handle my classroom, and the people in it to the best of my abilities. And really, I thought I had done a damn fine job. Then came yesterday. And an email. Sigh.

Sometimes, when people of any age are in situations of emotional duress they see things in a slanted way. A way that those standing a little less close can see in a calmer, straighter, different way. Who is to say which of these views is more true? Certainly not me. But, at times, it seems that our stories of our experiences can be florid and overwrought. So, when listening to such stories, I find it is always best to listen with calm. To try to avoid being caught up in the other's emotions. Especially, if you have to listen to more than one side.

So, if you find yourself listening to a single side from a crying girl it may be best to comfort her and say you understand. It is not a great idea to contact me with suggestions for how to teach. Because, it just may be offensive. An assumption that personal situations outside the classroom could somehow be alleviated with a better written syllabus is ridiculous, it trivializes my work as a teacher, counselor, and person. So, frankly, dear emailer. You can stuff it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

deaf ears; or, when the theatre is empty you have to leave the stage

I am by nature a storyteller. I view the world as narrative(s). Even while in the midst of an activity I think about what story I will tell. I watch the world around me for images, sounds, colors, themes, sound bites so that I can create my story. I hold stories in my mouth until they are polished and glowing. I had a bit of low point yesterday when I realized that I have been shaping these stories for one person. Someone who told me long ago that he doesn't want to hear them anymore.

My realization that I think about this lost friend more than I ever realized came this weekend when I had a similar experience with a different friend I hadn't seen for a while. This weekend I went to San Francisco. I spent three days, mostly on my own, touring the city and then running in the 100th Bay to Breakers. On Friday, I drove to the city, I had dinner with some friends, and checked into my hotel. Saturday was spent touring Alcatraz and Angel Island, then on Sunday the race. As usual for those of us who watch for stories I had my share. I was supposed to meet this friend in the city and I was looking forward to sharing my adventures with him. I greedily gobbled up each interesting thing and sprinkled the details into the stories I was writing in my head. But then, we never met up (his fault). I was so intensely disappointed. I kept asking myself why this was so painful for me? This was just a friend, nothing romantic, and yet I felt like a jilted lover. And then it hit: I was disappointed that I couldn't tell him the stories I had collected for him. My disappointment was a reflection of the pain I have been feeling for another. I have been doing that for another for nearly 8 years.

Swallowing words can leave you ravenous. I am not able to stay silent for long, so eventually I tell my stories to whomever will listen. But, because they were crafted for one person I am always disappointed in the telling. I choose words and details that I know he would like. I am unfairly impatient with my audience, waiting for a reaction that can't ever come. It is a cruel life and hopefully with this epiphany will come change. I can't keep talking to someone who isn't there. In the words of Rihanna (sage that she is) its been quite a show, very entertaining, but this show is over it's time to leave the stage: at least for now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

an open letter; or, I wish

Dear Student;

Thank you for your email explaining that you could not attend your mandatory conference with me today because your other (much more important) meeting ran late. I am so glad to hear that you are incredibly sorry, and that you would like to reschedule with me so that we can discuss your research project. I am sure that you would very much like to discuss your research project considering that you are well over the maximum number of absences allowed under my very clearly written and oft mentioned absence policy. I am equally sorry to have to notify you that, no, I cannot reschedule my appointment with you. I have every hour of the next week packed with conferences with other students, meetings, and a graduation. The thirty (unpaid) minutes I set aside for you was the only time I had available. I understand that your involvement with (insert student organization name here) is a passion for you, and I am glad you are so interested in the campus activties. I do want to remind you though that in order to get a degree in any major from any institution in the United States you will need to pass my class.


Adjunct Professor