Please see this article, which touches on and contextualizes issues of academic freedom (well, lack thereof) and denial of tenure in the case of my former professor, Dr. Nagesh Rao, and others.

And then, please sign the petition.

Here's my original posting on this matter.


Blue Are the Life-Giving Waters, Taken for Granted

Do you remember Terry? I remember him every day. Better yet, Terry was with us on Friday. I'm sure of it.

A trusting, safe classroom environment was chief among Terry's goals as an educator, and among his goals for his students and their eventual classrooms. I've been fairly confident in my ability to help students feel welcomed and appreciated, but it's just hard to tell. Friday I was blessed to see that my efforts have not gone to waste.

I asked the students to describe a time when they felt like they grew up a little. We're exploring the idea of "coming of age," as To Kill a Mockingbird is on the horizon. I shared some examples from my past--my parents' divorce, my siblings leaving for college. The students followed mostly in that same path, touching from time to time on the loss of a family member or friend. I even brought up Terry in my last period of the day--how I had to grow up a little when he passed away because I knew I could no longer go to him for advice or dialogue with him about the role of an educator. I knew, I explained to my attentive students, that I would need to do it on my own, to take what he taught me and arrive at the best decisions I could based on what I knew.

It was in this same period that one of my students felt compelled to speak. This is a student that, until now, I regarded as a follower through-and-through. B is often easily led by students with stronger personalities. That said, he's a sensitive young guy who was moved to tears earlier in the year by his mother's reaction to his lack of effort in classes. He's tried so hard ever since to live up to his own expectations and to not disappoint his mother again. She reportedly told him, "I'm giving up on you." It sounds harsh, but I'm nobody's momma so I'm not about to judge the potential detriments or merits of the statement, nor am I fit to attest to whether or not I mightn't of said the same thing if I was her.

After at least 10 minutes of conversation and hand-raising from other students, B raised his hand with a look on his face that I have never seen before:

"Yes, B?"

"When I was young. . . I don't really remember it because I was only 3, but my older brother was killed in a drunk driving accident. My mom tells me about him."

When was the last time you thought you were brave? When was the last time you could have shown more courage? B was brave enough to offer this contribution, thinking long and hard about it and about whether it was right to share it. He sat there afterwards rubbing his eyes, putting his shirt up to his forehead so his classmates could not see the tears. He did not move to leave the room, to get a tissue. He sat and allowed us all to witness his pain.

It made me want to say, "Thank you, B, for your trust." It made me want to proclaim loudly and with conviction how courageous R is to share this with all of us, and how proud I am of this class--despite all their warts and their off-days--for being who they are, individually and collectively, and making it possible for R to speak his truth. Instead, I quietly expressed how brave I thought he was later in the class period when no one else was listening. B nodded in thanks for my words. I weighed whether or not to call home and let mom know, and decided against it. I'm sure it's not on the list of things on which she's ready to reminisce.

I am surprised by this jump B has made so late in our year together as a class. I'm looking at him in another light now, and I'm reflecting on the idea that I need to be wary of the sometimes easily-adopted position that I've got these kids all figured out. I guess I'm a little more like Miss Caroline Fischer than I'd like to admit.

What B said made me want to send Terry an e-mail, or give him a phone call, to tell him how far we've come since September. But instead, I said a little prayer of thanks, because Terry was with us.

The Most Absurd World Of All Times

"It is imperative that a woman keep her sense of humor intact and at the ready. She must see, even if only in secret, that she is the funniest, looniest woman in her world, which she should also see as being the most absurd world of all times." Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

I don't know what it is about this. I like it.


Case of You

Just before our love got lost you said,
"I am as constant as a northern star."
And I said, "Constant in the darkness,
Where's that at?
If you want me I'll be in the bar."

On the back of a cartoon coaster
In the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada
Oh, Canada
With your face sketched on it twice.

Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling
And I would still be on my feet
Oh, I would still be on my feet.

Oh, I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints.
I'm frightened by the devil
And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid.

I remember that time you told me
You said, "Love is toching souls."
Surely you touched mine.
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time.

Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet.
Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling
And still I'd be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

I met a woman
She had a mouth like yours
She knew your life
She knew your devils and your deeds.
And she said, "Go to him, stay with him if you can
but be prepared to bleed."

Oh, but you are in my blood
You're my holy wine
You're so bitter
bitter and so sweet.
Oh, I could drink a case of you darling
still I'd be on my feet
I would still be on my feet.


I <3 217

I am outraged and disgusted by my alma mater English Department's decision to deny tenure and reappointment to one of the best professors under whom I've had the good fortune of studying. I count Dr. Nagesh Rao's classes among the finest, most transformative learning experiences I've ever had. He has been and continues to be an invaluable mentor to me and so many others--someone who guides generously, with little regard for the amount of his own personal time that slips away in the midst of aiding his students. To quote a fellow student, Nagesh has always been "just as interested in listening as he was speaking: a quality so few professors can say of themselves."

Nagesh, without a doubt in my mind, has made me a better educator through his example of what it means to be one--the duties and the commitment, the patience and enthusiasm, the love for learning and for helping others learn. For this I am so grateful.

The institution of higher learning that wishes to no longer count Dr. Rao among its ranks is truly doing itself--and its students--a monumental disservice. The caliber of the department gravely suffers in the event that the college allows a denial of tenure and reappointment to stick. In utmost solidarity with this cause, I ask that if you happen to be reading this, and happen to be a student, alumnus, or staff/faculty member, please sign the petition to defend Dr. Nagesh Rao's tenure.

"To speak a true word is to transform the world." Paulo Freire



This is a post I wrote back in December. It was in my drafts. Somehow I didn't publish it. I was just talking with my sister-in-law about the ridiculous amount of information we teachers need to hold in our brains at all times, and this demonstrates that point exactly:

Me, from across the room: "No, don't use that laptop. Someone just put it away it's lost all its charge by now. It's going to shut off"

I traverse the terrain of 3-inch binders and clumsily covered textbooks, wondering why I hadn't insisted that they be put away what with the laptops being present and all. I pull a laptop from the bottom of the cart, unhooking it with deft movements of a fish thoroughly
in water; "here, use this one. I don't think anyone's used it today so it should be all ready to go."

And my student, dumbfounded: "How did you do that? How did you see that from across the room?"

Me: "Well, I'm a teacher. That's my job."


Kinder, Gentler Machine Gun Hand

The title has nothing to do with the post, really. Well, maybe in some dark, subconscious way. Or maybe not.

I just remembered how much I love this poem by Carl Sandburg. We read it when I student taught, during our Romeo & Juliet unit. It was so much fun to perform. And I think what I love best is, I can find something in each stanza that I'm nodding along to. See if the same holds true for you.

Here's an excerpt:

Little Word, Little White Bird

Love, is it a cat with claws and wild mate screams
in the black night?
Love, is it a bird--a goldfinch with a burnish
on its wingtips or a little gray sparrow
picking crumbs, hunting crumbs?
Love, is it a tug at the heart that comes high and
costs, always costs, as long as you have it?
Love, is it a free glad spender, ready to spend to
the limit, and then go head over heels in debt?
Love, can it hit one without hitting two and leave
the one lost and groping?
Love, can you pick it up like a mouse and put it in
your pocket and take it to your room and bring it
out of your pocket and say,
O here is my love,
my little pretty mousey love?

Yes--love, this little word you hear about,
is love an elephant and you step out of the way
where the elephant comes trampling, tromping,
traveling with big feet and long flaps of
drooping ears and straight white ivory tusks--
and you step out of the way with respect,
with high respect, and surprise near to shock
as you say,
Dear God, he's big,
big like stupendous is big,
heavy and elephantine and funny,
immense and slow and easy.
I'm asking, is love an elephant?

Or could it be love is a snake--like a rattlesnake,
like a creeping winding slithering rattlesnake
with fangs--poison fangs they tell me,
and when the bite of it gets you
then you run crying for help
if you don't fall cold and dead on the way.
Can love be a snake?

Or would you say love is a flamingo, with pink feathers--
a soft sunset pink, a sweet gleaming naked pink--
and with enough long pink feathers
you could make the fan for a fan dance
and hear a person telling their lover,
Speak, my chosen one,
and give me your wish
as to what manner of fan dance
you would have from me
in the cool of evening
or the black velvet sheen of midnight.
Could it be love is a flamingo?

Or is love a big red apple, and you don't know
whether to bite into it--and you knock on wood
and call off your luck numbers and hold your breath--
and you put your teeth into it and get a mouthful,
tasting all there is to it,
and whether it's sweet and wild
or a dry mush you want to spit out,
it's something else than you expected.
I'm asking, sir, is love a big red apple?

And I've heard some say love is a spy and a sneak,
a blatherer, a gabby mouth,
tattling and tittering as it tattles,
and you believe it and take it to your heart
and nurse it like good news,
like heaven-sent news meant for you
and you only--precious little you.
Have you heard love comes creeping and cheating like that?

Here's the whole thing.


Mos Def

Gr! Sorry. Didn't know it would do that. . . anyhow, I'll leave this info anyway:

Scroll all the way to about 9:00 to see him school Bill. It's just a few small comments, and Bill pretty much ignores him, but his thoughts are powerful and he exposes Bill's ignorance to the realities of the poor and working poor of this country. He makes another fine point at about 1:55 on nuclear disarmament and American hypocrisy, that, again, no one wants to acknowledge. If I'm not mistaken, it's the same point my mother has been making all my life (right, Mom?), and I'm inclined to think it's a pretty damn sensible one.

Rushdie and Hitchens are pretty bourgy the whole way through (yeah, I am calling someone else bourgy a week after I created a unapologetic consumerism tag and wrote about local organic coffee). They want to pretend that Mos isn't listening when in reality they don't want to hear his straightforward and honest thoughts that don't dance around the truth or complicate things in the irritating manner in which they prefer to engage in discussion. Rushdie has some nerve telling anyone how it is after accepting knighthood from a colonial power the likes of which are unparalleled except, maybe, by the United States.

Go Ahead. . .

Chuckle. Chuckle at the fact that I love Rush enough to turn "Tom Sawyer" lyrics (cause that's not a predictable choice or anything) into an impromptu Poetry Sunday while I sit and listen with strep throat on the FIRST TWO DAYS OF MY BREAK. Figures. Literally the moment I got home Friday, my body says oooook time to be sick now.

BTW, did anyone see Mos Def school Bill Maher on the working poor last week? Sometimes, as one of my professors once said, Bill really kicks down instead of up. Mos was not having it. I will try to find the moment on youtube.

What is it with me and musicians named Neil?

Tom Sawyer

A modern day warrior
Mean, mean stride
Today's Tom Sawyer
Mean, mean pride

Though his mind is not for rent
Don't put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day's events
The river

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift

The world is, the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his skies are wide

Today's Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the space he invades
He gets by on you

No his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
But change is

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the witness, catch the wit
Catch the spirit, catch the spit

The world is, the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide

Exit the warrior
Today's Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the energy you trade
He gets right on to the friction of the day