Thursday, December 16, 2010

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/10: Some Students Love Poetry, Spanish Rice, Superb Coffee Talk

1.  Sometimes students write a note at the end of a paper expressing gratitude for some aspect of the course we've been working on.  The poetry of Rumi and the study of ancient Chinese and Japanese poetry inspired such notes from some of my students as this quarter draws to an end.  It's really gratifying.  This poetry is so different than what any of us normally read, whether we read poetry or not, and to have it beauty and wisdom touch some of my students further stokes the fires of my love for teaching these works.

2.  Back to the electric frying pan tonight, and in a hurried fashion.  I wanted to cook a meal for Molly, Olivia, and the Deke in under an hour before I went to coffee with MB and Michael and I decided it was as good of a time as any to break into the world of Spanish rice.  It was a perfect choice.  Once the Painted Hills hamburger was browned and the onions and red pepper were tender, I dumped a can of diced tomatoes over it, simmered it for a while, and then tossed rice into the mix and let it all cook slowly until the rice was ready to eat.  I wasn't present when Molly, Olivia, and the Deke dug in, but when I got home, the reports were pretty positive.  (Next time:  more rice.)

3.  Coffee with MB and Michael.  Wow.  It's the end of the quarter and we were in a self-examining mood, ready to share notes regarding how well we thought we'd done our work over the last ten weeks or so.  We uttered not one complaint about our students, but helped each other with observations regarding what enables our students and what impedes them from doing good work.  This teaching is a humbling undertaking.  I never, as they say, "have it down".  I keep seeing ways I do my work well and see ways I fall short (in my eyes) and so I will begin a period of self-examination and self-evaluation when winter break begins and see if I can figure out ways to continue to improve.  It's tricky.  I don't know what to expect in the winter.  I'll have all new students and with all new students comes an entirely new set of challenges and unknowns.  Thank goodness I have my fellow teachers to talk with and thank goodness none of us our work as a matter of "just do this" or "just do that".  There is no "just".   I have to stay alert to the moment and always be on my toes.

I'd like to add that MB, Michael, and I also had a great discussion about teaching, reading, and thinking about literature, too.  In particular, we discussed the challenge of discovering and teaching stories that are positive, that affirm life.  So much literature is dark.  It was fun to discuss books and stories like "The Accidental Tourist" or "The Color Purple" or "Tempest Tost" or "Middlemarch" that explore what gives life vitality and tell stories wherein characters dead to life, robbed of vitality, come to life.

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