Friday, October 31, 2008


This year my children dressed as Michelle and Barack Obama for Halloween. It was difficult to pin down exactly what would distinguish them. I put a string of pearls on my daughter. She took the hairpiece off, but I thought it was a nice touch. My son doned his suit pants with a tie, dress shirt, and sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Adorable! I slapped on my Obama pin and added a few handmade ones as well for good measure. It was fun. Some part of me felt like I should do it now; who knows what next Halloween will look like?

We're waiting for tomorrow to happen, and I'm trying to rest on faith instead of fear. What's the worst that could happen? W. can't be elected again, so . . . we're good, right?

Due in part to her class at preschool, my daughter perks up every time she hears Obama's name. In fact, she now recognizes his voice on the radio. There's something invigorating about that. She probably doesn't know exactly what's going on, but the largeness of this moment is moving and exciting. My world view has totally been shifted--just like that. The country is so much about evolution, as slow in coming as it often is; we have to always be ready to move, to shift idealistically. It's hard to keep up, sometimes, but the journey is, I'm starting to believe, worth it.

The Diva, we do indeed need to hope and pray that we will have what we need as a country and as a planet. Let's keep on our toes, ready to move whenever we need to.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Say what?!

Did I tell you about the time when my student came into class and announced that "books have a lot of good stuff in 'em"? In fact, she said, she should start using books instead of the internet more often. Be still my beating heart! I just might have done my job well!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's Too Quiet on this Plane

I just watched an episode of one of my favorite television shows, "30 Days." I'm planning to show the episode about a Christian who lives as a Muslim for 30 days to my students for an assignment that intersects with their history unit on faith. I was forming my questions about the show and was fascinated by the changes the guy undergoes. In the end, he realizes that he cannot sit by quietly the next time people knows make assumptions about Islam and Muslim people. He says that he will have to speak up and correct the negative preconceptions. What an experience this must have been, huh?

So, maybe I should go somewhere for 30 days. Last weekend I was on a plane with an older gentleman who thought he was really cracking me up. I laughed some, but it was a very small plane. I couldn't sit stoically for an hour while he gave me his best misanthropic material. And his endless talking kept me from grading the stack of papers on my lap. He talked about politics and his children and schools and his job and everything else. Then the flight attendants came by with the drinks and this guy starts in on how flight attendants used to all be pretty ladies. Then, he says, they became ugly women. Now, they are a bunch of "f" words. Then he continues to fuss about the male attendants, dropping the "f"word about a hundred million times. I told him, "That's not nice!" But I didn't let go of the tight smile on my face. But I started to think about who might be sitting around us on this very small plane. Who's feelings might be hurt by this inflammatory language? Then, I started to think about how I didn't want anyone sitting around us to include me in his diatribe. I was NOT like "this one" over here. Right?

Well, I'm not like him. I have learned to call out disrespectful language and inflammatory rhetoric in class when it crops up in our conversations about Biblical stories or personal relationships or other provocative topics. And yet, sitting in that little seat on that little plane, I stifled my own voice. I laughed politely and avoided eye contact. I didn't say, "Look dude. I'm not going to co-sign on your mean-spirited, humanity-denying othering."

I wish that I had said something. I wish I had mentioned the really smart and wonderful people I know who happen to be homosexual. I wish I had, at least, said that it's not okay to say that anybody deserves to be shot (as he suggested) as a matter of policy. Or that maybe other people's personal lives are basically none of our business. I wish I had said something. I mean, even the minister wearing the clergy collar in the airport managed to find his voice when he heard the announcement that his flight's gate had been changed. He shouted the "s" word. Loudly. Ha! My lovely seatmate heard him and relayed the story to me. Then he told me about the tall African American guy who also heard the minister. That's what he said, African American guy. I thought, "Do you seriously expect me to believe that you routinely use the term African American when referring to black people? Really? After you just dropped the "f" word without a bit of shame?" I felt even worse. No way would I have been quiet if he were using racial epithets.

So, I'm confessing my silence, my shame. I really should have been more brave and more vocal. But, I will do better. I, like Dave, will be changed and next time, I won't be quiet.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Teaching Meme

I don't have many words lately, but I feel full of thoughts. That's a frustrating combo. So, here's this teaching meme from Writing Maternity, who got it from penelope at Outside Voice, who got it from Mommy/Prof, who got it from . . . It's the only thing I can organize in my brain as midterm creeps up.

1. The thing I am looking forward to most in the class I teach next is: Feeling the vibe of students who show up ready to work on themselves and their writing. And hoping that they'll make me laugh.
2. The thing I dread the most in the class I teach next is: Fearing that too many students won't have their work and I'll have to have a back up activity or else stand there and look at them like they're crazy.
3. The reason my favorite student this semester is my favorite is: There are a couple of them, thankfully. They are smart and driven, and trying so hard. And they take learning seriously.
4. The reason the student who gets on my nerves most does so is: He's never completely there. It's hard to gauge whether he's messing off or in a bad mood or high or what; I want to just write him, but I can't. Get it together!
5. The hardest thing about my classes this semester is: Doing a new thing in a new program and flailing and readjusting all the time.
6. If I had to pick a class to start teaching tomorrow (say a colleague gets sick or something), I would want: I'm not sure, but I want to be challenged in a new way.
7. My favorite time to teach is mid-morning because I have the whole day ahead of me but I still have time to get off to a slow start in the morning.
8. My least favorite time to teach is ____late afternoon____ because _I space out after about3pm_.
9. If I ran academia, classes would be different in this way: Fifty minute classes would be elimated; they are too short to get everything done. I run out of time at least once a week.
10. Would you rather your job have a balance tilted towards teaching or research, and why? Depends on which day you ask me. I wish both were supported much better, but I guess I'd lean towards teaching. What I really wish is that my job had a tilt towards someone else to grade my papers.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Insulting My Intelligence

I refuse to believe that Americans are as stupid as politicians and the media believe they are. I had my definite opinions about Biden and Palin's performance last night during the VP debate, but I was interested to know what the political pundits had to say. True to form, Democratic sympathizers thought Biden did great and Republican sympathizers thought Palin did a good job. Many (not so many Republicans) admitted that expectations were so low for Palin that, of course, a gaffe-free performance would be like a home run. But really, is that all it takes to be outstanding?

I was insulted that I was supposed to accept Palin's evasive and rehearsed answers and arrogant refusal to respond to the moderator as a stellar performance. Have the standards for American excellence become so low that one does not have to do well, they only have to not mess up, for us to accept it as a win? Do the "people in the know" expect so little of Americans that we are to accept mediocrity as excellence?

These low expectations of Americans are also revealed in the assertions that Biden did not do well because he was too professorial. Like they said of Obama at the Saddleback forum, his answers were too nuanced and therefore would not resonate well with the American public. So, are they saying that Americans are too stupid to understand that life's situations are not always black and white, easily characterized by a catchy slogan? Do they not have enough faith in the American public to believe that they realize that life is complicated?
Maybe they don't think much of America's intellect, but, my goodness, give us a little credit.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Who ya wit?

I'm watching the Vice Presidential debate. We keep stopping the DVR in order to rant, so I'm just going to add a quick note here before my screaming wakes up my children.

One of the generative themes I'm hearing in the debate is the idea that corporations create jobs, and that they are good. If corporations are your primary concern, then people are not. Their purpose for being is not creating jobs--it's making money. People put people first; companies put money first. Anybody who has read the Bible knows that the love of money is the root of all evil. Any corporation worth its salt would sell down the river every human it knows if it means that it will continue to exist and make money. People will lose jobs as soon as it is economically expedient. So, Vice Presidential folks, get it straight where your loyalties are.