Oh, my poor neglected blog. I have missed writing. I have a running list of everything I need/want to write about, and this list gets tackled NOW. It’s hard to walk around with these ideas circulating in my head; they begin to insert themselves, compose themselves, and become themselves at very inopportune moments, like when I am trying to have some peace in a yoga class or during a moment of cooking dinner when I suddenly realize that I have been in my “special place” (what I call it when the students space out) and the food is burning. There is a needs-to-be-written overflow happening for sure.
Today is my first official day of my annual summer leave. The writing begins now.
My semester ended with a whimper, not a bang. Isn’t that how it normally is? I begin to anticipate the end about a month before it happens and fantasize about glorious revelations from both the students and me, usually accompanied by tears and hugs and Dead Poets Society “Oh Captain, My Captain” moments and some moving soundtrack playing in the background. That’s the fantasy. The reality is much more lackluster. When I taught high school, staring in May I had countdown until the English Regents Exam on my board and every day a student from my first period class could come to the board and change the number of days left, but college is different–we don’t see the students or each other (as faculty/staff) every day, therefore that daily grind towards the end doesn’t make as much sense. Additionally, my final paper for Composition I was due a week and a half before our class ended, therefore the students didn’t feel the need to come to my class after that last paper. Only about 1/3 of the class showed up for our last meeting.
Me & the six students who showed from Cohort 1 (June 3, 2013):
So, all in all, it was a pretty lame conclusion, especially when I consider the fact that we opened a brand new community college this year! A little disappointing. . .
. . .EXCEPT for the last class I had before the last class.
As I was putting the laptops away with one of my students, Nas, we chatted about the semester’s immigration curriculum and he said something to me along these lines:
You know, professor, this semester really made me think. Like now, I’ll be riding the subway, and a person will get on and push me or something, and I’ll start to get mad, and then I look at them and I think, “You know, that could be Kim or Ma from Girl in Translation or Enrique or Juana or Abram from There’s No Jose Here, and I stop being mad and racist–you know? Reading those books really changed how I see people.”
Let me give some background about this student: Nas’s family is from Lebanon and his father sacrificed greatly for them to come to the United States. Since 9/11, Nas has been racially profiled many, many times, like any young person of Middle Eastern descent in New York City. To listen to him have this revelation, to listen to him explain how his racist inclinations have slightly shifted and that he can now check himself on them because of the books we read in class…WOW. We continued to talk about racial profiling and questioning our own racist thoughts when they sneak into our own heads, and I told him that this realization of his was HUGE and one that many people NEVER have such a realization in their entire lives. He left, and I felt happy and full of purpose.
All I could think was: My work is done.
Happy end of the year to all of you out there. May you have some small epiphanies of how your work matters, even amid the fizzling out of another exhausting year.
And peace out, mad love, and thanks for teaching ME to House 4 of the inaugural year of the New Community College. You guys (students, fellow faculty, staff) are all so much more amazing than I could have ever anticipated.
House 4, The New Community College, inaugural year 2012-2013
We are serious.