Posts from the ‘Education’ Category

Hats for Women (Or: Why Recognizing Privilege Matters)

This is a story about hats.

But it isn’t.

It’s a story about privilege.

But it isn’t.

It’s really a story about how change happens and how we need to seek change more than we do.

Let me start by saying, I KNOW privilege is one of the most over-used words on the internet.  But there’s a reason it’s over-used: it’s still a problem.  Just like racism and sexism and shaming are over-used because these are still problems.  Is it true that rarely, infrequently, these things are used in wrong and exploitative contexts?  Yes.  But that does not make all uses invalid.  So, please, hang with me while I talk about privilege as best and applicably as I can.

I went to a small, conservative college. The department I was in had a strange mix of liberal and conservative ideals, sometimes within the same professor.  In some classes, I had to be there without fail.  In other classes, as long as I got the work done, they didn’t care.

I had one particular professor who was a walking conflict.  He got so angry at me one day for refusing to watch an R-rated film that had no curricular value to it that he told me to “Go to BYU, then!” and dismissed me with a flick of his hand, as if I were somehow inferior for not wanting to watch gratuitous nudity and language in an academic setting.  As if this one stance of personal morality in the face of a completely non-academic film showing somehow made me unfit to go to a university not run by people who shared that standard.  (By the way – if you didn’t already know – I am excessively liberal in comparison to most of the adherents to the LDS faith and basically loathe Mormon culture (please note the difference between faith and culture).  I would have had ten-fold as many professors telling me not to let the door hit my butt on the way out had I gone to BYU.) This same professor demanded strict attendance, stricter homework procedures, and the most ridiculously stringent note-taking system I have ever seen – all in the fashion of a school that has been proven by academia as out-of-date and inherently broken – but some teachers still adhere to it because it is “traditional.”  I HATED these classes with a passion for a long time and tolerated them with a fatalistic acceptance in my final year at Missouri Valley.

Predictably, this professor also had a fairly conservative dress code: show up to class looking like you give at least a minimal amount of care.  This standard was relaxed in the 8:00am classes (because NO ONE was showing up to a Groobs class that early without the choice of attending in PJ’s), but one thing was strictly maintained: NO HATS.

Except, well, if the girls were wearing them.

YUP – you read that right.  Men weren’t allowed to wear hats to class.  Women were.  The rational was that when a man wore a ball cap, it was laziness or disrespect.  When a woman wore a hat of any kind (ball caps included), it was an accessory.

Ashamed as I am, I admit that this made sense to me for a moment.

I know, I know, stop the truck.  I am white, middle-class, and well-educated, so I grew up with plenty of privilege that I need to (and do my best to) see around.  But, that being said, I am also female, bi/pan-sexual, and non-binary gendered.   I grew up with plenty of lack of privilege, too.  I have been abused. I was culturally conditioned to be so frightened of my own gender/sexuality that I didn’t come out until I was twenty-five. TWENTY-FIVE, people. I have been told I can’t do things /  can’t do them as well because I’m “just a girl.” I know what it is like to be on the unprivileged side.

And yet, my own privilege it made sense to me, if only for a moment.  Now, this is a totally human reaction – there’s some interesting science behind it.  It’s a type of confirmation bias when you start out with advantages and you feel you deserve them because you’ve always had them . . . BAD BAD BAD thinking!  Bad Joie!

Thankfully, in the next moment I realized how wildly unfair this was.  Yes, I use hats to accessorize my outfits (I love hats).  But, the fact of the matter is, I also had an extremely high ratio of hat days to bad hair days.  Wearing hats was, in many cases, laziness on my part because oh-my-gosh-I-hate-my-hair-so-much-just-cover-that-crap-up.  How was that different than the male decision to wear a hat?  Also, what kind of ridiculous assumption was it to think that because men are men that their hats – ball caps or fedoras or top hats – were just functions of laziness?  Why can’t their hats, from simple trucker hats to expensive fedoras, be specifically chosen accessories? I knew, in fact, that they WERE accessories in some cases!  But why does that make those who wear hats out of habit any less worthy of the chance to wear a hat in a classroom?

Some of these arguments occurred at the time, some of them came through later re-examination.  But the fact of the matter is – I did nothing about it.  In fact, I abused my privilege for some time.  I knew I could get away with hats, so get away I did. I never defended the rights of my male counterparts to wear their hats and happily made sure that a ball cap was always available for the worst of hair days.

Now, Groobs was definitely a “pick your battles” sort of teacher.  He tended to be hardest on the best students and to apathetically let the struggling students fail because clearly they weren’t trying hard enough.  I got my butt kicked in those classes trying to keep up with his higher expectations (because I had proven to be successful previously) while I watched other students who needed Groobs’ attention and scrutiny wallow because he had given up on them.   Hats were the least  of any of our worries.

But they were a teaching moment.

Eventually, I stopped wearing hats on days that I had classes with Groobs.  Not always, but mostly.  Eventually, I not only recognized my privilege, but reacted to it in a way I can be proud of.  You see – this was never about wearing hats or privilege.  It was about how I reacted to it, as well as how I didn’t.  It was about  how I decided to take advantage of a status quo, how I decided to stop taking advantage, and how I didn’t speak out against it even once I established a rapport with Groobs.

Because I did.  He’s a cantankerous old coot and I won’t be shy about saying I’m glad he retired (for a myriad of reasons), but he’s also the cantankerous old coot who held my hand through my thesis, who pushed me to think deeper, who took the time to take me aside privately so we could celebrate some serious accomplishments of mine without lording them over others.  He was the cantankerous old coot who both stubbornly clung to his wrong opinions AND noticed that I was struggling with cutting an apologized for being an asshole during one of my fragile times.  He was the cantankerous old coot who learned to listen to me and learn from me, as I learned to listen and learn from him.  I could have said something.   I didn’t. Because, despite being aware of how wildly unfair my privilege was, I didn’t recognize it.

And I didn’t seek to change it.

This is a really small example.  I could talk about recognizing my educated privilege or my middle-class privilege or my white privilege. But there’s something significant about this hat situation: I can no longer do anything about it.  Every day, I seek to change who I am so that I am more understanding and – while still privileged – aware of the struggles of those who don’t have my privileges.  I seek to change the world so that my privilege doesn’t cause others harm. I seek to change a world that shouts “SPECIAL TREATMENT” when someone tries to give privileges to those who otherwise will not have them.

I cannot change the hats, though.  The systemic abuse of privilege marches on because people do not seek to change the hats.  Yes, tackle the big issues.  Save your time and energy for the fights that need them most.  But NEVER EVER be complacent, and most certainly NEVER EVER EVER be complicit.  Even if it is just as simple as saying, “I think this is wrong,” it is important to those who are wronged to hear and see that you don’t wish privilege at their expense.  It is important to me to talk about the hats because I cannot change them. Because I was complacent, perhaps even complicit by the views of some.  It is important to me to say, “I am sorry I did nothing.  I am sorry about the hats.  I was wrong.”

So here goes:

I am sorry I did nothing.

I am sorry about the hats.

I was wrong.

And I seek to never do that again.

You see, change doesn’t happen because we see wrong and don’t participate in it.  Change happens when we seek it.  Change happens when we SEE wrong and DO SOMETHING about it.  Change happens when we recognize wrong in ourselves and seek to never be wrong like that again.

Recognizing privilege is important.  We can’t seek to change anything if we don’t first see it.

Speak out!

WARNING:  I said I few months ago I was going to start talking more about my experience as a multiple-times abuse victim and, ultimately, as a survivor.  So, this is not a humorous blog, nor is it a place where things are to be taken lightly.  If you mistreat this subject in the comments, I will delete and block WITH PREJUDICE.

So, I saw this article yesterday.  TRIGGER WARNING: ABUSE, RAPE, VERBAL VIOLENCE.  I probably shouldn’t have read it, much less watched the accompanying video.  Much of the content was absolutely sickening, especially as a sexual abuse survivor.

There were no graphic images at all.  All the triggers are verbal and if anyone doubts the power of words, this is the place to learn it.

The article is about rape culture within comedy (and the wider world, as comedy is a reflection of it).  The writer, Lindy West of Jezebel, entered a debate with a male comedian, Jim Norton, about the appropriateness of rape jokes.  Norton argued that comedy is how we deal with terrible, horrible things and nothing should be off limits.  West argued that the jokes perpetuate victim blaming and perpetrator glorifying and that, in that case, some things should absolutely be off limits.  I fall somewhere in the middle of these two sides of the debate, but appreciate that the debate is out there.  As a survivor of one of the most shameful things a human being inflict on another living thing, I cannot fight my own shame (personal and social) without these discussions.

The response was truly horrific.

Months ago, I learned of Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency.  I LOVE her (though I don’t always agree with her). She talks about things that must be discussed.  She talks about women’s roles in popular media (including video games, which are rarely the target of feminist critics).  This brought a vicious hate campaign to her doorstep.  An online game centered around beating her bloody was created just because she dared to say video games could treat women better. She responded to the campaign and the threats by continuing her work and talking at TEDxWomen 2012.

The responses are truly horrific.  Still.

These are places I probably shouldn’t go.  They trigger so many things for me – awful memories; feelings of helplessness, faithlessness, terror; terrible shame.  I’m still trying to balance being part of the discussion and being so part of the discussion that I’m feeding my brain poison.

But I needed to talk about one facet of the abuse of these women that I just cannot let stand without some of my own words, and it is the comments along these lines (AGAIN, TRIGGER WARNING):

“Noone would want to rape that fat disgusting mess [West].”

“Jaba [West] has nothing to worrie about, not even a prison escapee would rape her.”

“I would totally rape Anita Sarkeesian.”

These are a TINY sampling taken from a horrifying amount of rape threats, death threats, other personal safety threats, death wishes, and name calling, among other harassments.  But these are FAR MORE disturbing to me than those other abuses.  They seem to be innocent, but the attitude they represent is downright alarming.  And that attitude is this:

Rape is a compliment.

I’m going to let that soak in for a minute.

.

.

.

Rape is a compliment.

WHAT?!

The wrongness of this cannot be expressed.  Many other comments spoke about the rape fantasies West must surely have, West’s disappointment at being too fat for them to be fulfilled, and other inherently disgusting things like unto that.

Some of the other inexcusable attitudes expressed by these comments are: women who don’t fall “in line” deserve rape, over-weight women don’t deserve physical affection (violent or otherwise), and women wish for these violations to confirm their desirability.

Ew. Ew. Ew. EW.

Those attitudes are bad enough and thoroughly sickening.  But that over-arching tone of “rape is a compliment” makes me physically ill.  Why does this exist in our society?  Why is this remotely okay?  Useless questions, I know, but they should be asked and answered, if only to help some people think.

In the mean time, let me set this record straight:

When I was sexually abused, it was not a testament to my desirability.  It was not a compliment to my sexual attractiveness.  It was a complete and utter disregard of me, an affront to my humanity.

It was my babysitter, my fiancé, my boyfriend’s need to control a situation and an inherent selfishness in which the desires of the one (them) were more important that the needs and safety of the other (me) or the whole (the relationship).  I was not sexually abused by my babysitter because she saw me – a sexually immature seven-year old – as sexually desirable.  I was sexually abused by her because she felt I deserved the most shameful of punishments for being a typical, annoying seven-year old.  She made that patently clear.  She also made it clear she enjoyed abusing me.  She did it for recreation.  Her pleasure, sexual or otherwise, was more important than my health, safety, or needs because she was older, wiser, more behaved, and – in her mind – better.  She felt she deserved that pleasure more than I deserved a loving, caring, or protective relationship.

I cannot speak so clearly for my other abusers, because they weren’t nearly so open with me as to why they abused me.  But I can tell you from their behavior that my needs and wants were always subordinate to their wishes and whims.  I do not say needs because abuse is never a need, just as it is never a compliment.  It is a choice, a choice that should not be made.  It is a choice to discount the needs of a living, breathing human being because it is inconvenient to see them as anything other than a tool for the abuser’s wantonly selfish fantasies.  It dehumanizes beautiful, ugly, skinny, fat, exceptional, and utterly ordinary people alike, because rape and abuse are NOT compliments.  They are power plays and selfish expressions of this simple and terrifying attitude:

The only person who will ever matter is me.

And if I have to scream from every rooftop in Christendom that THIS IS WRONG, that is what I will do.  I will speak out.  Because no matter how unhealthy it can be for me to read these things and be in these situations, there is NOTHING less healthy than letting these things pass me by.

I will speak out.  And I will be heard.  And I fight until these attitudes, or I, are gone.  There is no other option because too many people are silenced.

____________________________________________

As always, if you are a victim of abuse, please reach out to me.  I will help in any way I can that is respectful of your and my private lives.  You are not alone and you never have to go through that again.

Guest Post: Getting back to it.

Miss Kate is guesting here today! (Sorry for the delay . . . it was not a good day yesterday.)  Her blog talks about cooking and new mommy adventures with my adorable nephew, Weston.

Recently, I have come to the conclusion I must go back to school. ‘Tis is not an old notion by any stretch of the imagination–before I had even started on my Associate degree, my parents and I made a deal that I would–at some point–earn my Bachelor’s degree. I say earn, not receive, because I believe it is something you work your bum off for and thus earn. Although, if they were handed out pell-mell, I would love one.

Three years ago this seemed like a boring and assignment-like task.  Much like an essay on some boring topic, I started it, dragged my feet, and eventually threw in the towel altogether.  I do have my Associates but it is from a technical school, Scottsdale Culinary Institute, which–as an amazing experience as it was–unfortunately does not transfer its credits very well (or perhaps the regular college I choose to attended was just obnoxious). So, eventually, I just decided I would work on it later and moved to small town Idaho and am now married with an amazing little boy who, on some days, makes me lose everything except my train of thought. It’s called the learning stage, and goodness gracious! This child wants to know EVERYTHING, and he hasn’t even started speaking more than three words yet.

Looking at him, I realized that I am not doing what I truly want to do with my life.  Furthermore, the only way to achieve that goal requires more schooling.  Both myself and my husband have reached this conclusion, so we are now working on a way for both of us to go back to school, raise our child, and at least one of us hold down a career.

* sigh*

It’s not even the thought of homework and soap-boxing professors that worry me anymore, it’s managing my possible work load, classes, and my family. I can stay up late to do homework, sure, but will that make me a grouchier person or will it make me miss things with my son? My mom worked and so did my dad and they always said it was the quality of time they spent with me and my sister over the quantity. It still makes me feel like a bad mom. Which is silly because I currently work full-time and so does my husband and Weston goes to daycare only when he has to. (Side note, daycare gets a bad rap, I went to daycare and it put us leaps and bounds ahead in how to socialize and share and get along.) Deciding to go back to school is a big step, and an awkward one, whether it be online or in a class room. And it’s one I want to take if only to get it done with. 😉 I want to set a good example for my son, both of us do, which sometimes means dealing with the hard stuff.

Thanks, Kate!

Arts major? Quit now.

Sorry, I’m not here to be cheery.  I’m here to give a reality check.

I don’t think I’ve ever explored the whys and wherefores of my decision to be an English major on this blog.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of my reasons are evidenced in the individual posts, but I believe in being explicit.  So here goes:

First things first, before I even go into an enumerated list, let’s do an honesty binge.  The job market for English majors is, frankly, piss poor.  And not in the, “It’s hard to be a professional author, but I’ll make it someday,” way, but in the, “The skill set I developed in college has little to no effect on the reality of day to day living,” way.  This is why going on to a Masters and/or PHd is VITAL if you want any sort of semi-decent job.  Which, of course, still won’t pay for all those loans you took out to get the advanced degrees to get you the semi-decent job.  Also, that semi-decent job you slaved over degree after degree to get will most likely be thankless.  Being a teacher, a librarian, an editor, or a technical writer (to name a few of the more common paths of the English major) are jobs that you do because you love it and NO OTHER reason.  Editors are seen as the villains of the literary world (as you learn in your English major), teachers are used and abused with frequency, librarians are pushed to get more customers with less than adequate funding, and a technical writer is the poor sap that writes all those manuals that no one bothers to read.

Of course, the common outcry from this insular community (because every year the English major becomes more and more isolated from reality and entrenched in that illusory world of academia) is, “We don’t do it for the job, we do it because we love it!”  If that’s the only reason you’re pursuing an English degree, quit now.  I’m not saying love of literature, writing, or words is a bad reason.  It’s a bad SOLITARY reason.  Love sours when reality sets in.  It’s why so many marriages fall apart and it’s why so many English majors regret their decision.  If you’re one of those who pursue the English degree because it’s easy . . .  bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah.  Your life will be all the more miserable and HARD because you chose the  “easy route” in college.  Also, if you think satisfying the pedants that crawl out of the woodwork in every English department (for any of my former professors who may be reading this: you know who you are) will be easy, I wish I could be there for your first true reality check.  It’s going to be beautiful.

Now, why do I say this?  Because I chose the wrong reasons to go into an English degree, and I know it.  So, here’s the why, here are my regrets, and here are the reasons I’m glad I did it for the wrong reasons:

The Reasons Why I was an English Major:

  1. I loved it.  This being the main reason I did the English degree is how I know it’s a bad solitary, even primary, reason.  By the end of school, I hated it.  By the time I got my working life in order, I loathed it.  I couldn’t sneeze at Hamlet  for almost 18 months (Mark, you know what you did).
  2. I didn’t think I was capable of better. I sold myself short, thinking that just because my aptitude for the maths and sciences was lesser than my aptitude for language, I could do no better (not saying that maths and sciences are inherently better than arts, just that they would have been better for me).  I would have been much happier in a major I didn’t love and had to work hard at, because I would have felt like I accomplished so much more.  I should have switched my major to Chemistry my freshman year, and I know it.  And again, my junior year, I should have switched my major (and colleges) to Classics, since I declined to switch to Chemistry earlier on.  I now love these subjects both with a passion so much greater than English because I have to WORK at them.  I hate them with a greater passion, too, because I have to WORK at them.  But English was my first love (notice, not passion) and I was afraid of failure (and a lower GPA) in a different major.  I didn’t think I could do better and that stopped me from getting the major(s) I wanted.
  3. I value the arts and hate to see them devalued as they are.  What can I say to this one?  It’s a terrible reason to get an arts major of any kind.  I can value the arts in my home and personal life, I can even advocate for it in public, without screwing up my job prospects later on.  That’s why I declined to get a Theatre degree, why couldn’t I have been sensible and apply that same logic to an English degree?   Also, much as I value the arts, I value science as well.  In fact, what I so dislike is that the two are getting further and further apart on the educational spectrum.  Logic needs intuition, intuition demands logic.  Why do we insist on separating the two as if they aren’t compatible?

The Reasons I Regret It:

  1. My love for English has, indeed, soured.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bibliophile to the bone.  But I am not that into English academia, which is one of the few options of the Enligh major.  I also can’t imagine teaching children to love something that brought me so much misery in college.  Also, I realized how truly  inadequate English is as a communicative tool and I wish I could have not had that realization.  It kind of sucks that I spent my academic career studying something I have recognized to be effectively useless in not just financial but interpersonal areas as well.
  2. My choices are limited. Specifically when it comes to employment.  Thankfully, I have one of the coolest jobs in the world that didn’t require a degree of a specific kind.  But I am lucky in that sense.  In the other sense, should I ever want to pursue a career in any of the English related fields, I’m going to have to go to a lot more schooling to accomplish that.  Since I don’t particularly want to pursue English, I’m going to have to start pretty close to the beginning when I go back to school for museum studies.  But this limit of choices is also social–the English major is not looked on with great respect or dignity ever (MRS degree doesn’t always mean English major, but I know there are plenty of people who equate those two (I’ve met a few). Yeah, I totally didn’t start looking to date seriously until I graduated, pricks.).  Sometimes, I’m seen as stupid or lazy for my choice.  Sure, I didn’t love my English degree, but I made sure to take advantage of my education while I was there.  I may have made a bad choice, but I made the best of my bad choice and it’s annoying to have it belittled.  English is not a soft option, and I hope that I’m slowly changing that opinion by being an intelligent human being–in part due to my degree.
  3. I cannot enjoy books or blogs or conversations anymore! Oh, the complexes that come with being an English major.  We’re indoctrinated with the importance of grammar, spelling, and symbols/deeper meaning.  And it kills me.  Do I believe in the beauty and meaning of symbols in literature?  Yes!  But I did before my major and now I can’t read a book without dissecting it.  AUGH.  I also took a very long time to realize myself as a writer again.  I was so busy being a Writer of English and a Speaker of English that my casual communications, my creative endeavors, and every day conversations were stilted and horrible.  I’m doing better now, but I can’t really make any claims that this will continue to abate with time.  I leveled out awhile ago.  I am so screwed.

The Reasons I’m Glad, In Spite of Myself:

  1. I learned a lot about myself.  I love words.  I love books.  I love reading.  I love language.  I hate English.  I hate technical writing.  I hate pedantic academia.  I swear, if I have to get into one more connotative verses denotative debate I will punch someone in the face (preferably you, Groobs).  I am smarter than I give myself credit for, but not nearly as intelligent as I wish to be.  I don’t do well without intellectual stimulation, but I don’t really need a partner who is well-versed in literature.  I cannot handle “true literature” in large or medium doses.  I think Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare were hack jobs, but they’re still entertaining as ever (though I’ll admit to having a preference for the Bard ANY DAY).  I am spiritually uplifted by studying mythology.  Mostly, I learned that a lot of the ephemera that I identified myself by was just that.  I learned who I was when all that was stripped away by the misery of my major.  That self-knowledge would have been several years more in the making if I had done something else.
  2. I learned what I cannot be without. I learned, in the course of hating my major with a passion, that the BEST reason to do any major–but most especially an arts one–is because you cannot live without it.  This is why I made sure to take some college level Chemistry, pursued a minor in Classics (which I am far more proud of than my major), affiliated myself with the rodeo team, and accepted a membership in the theatre honors fraternity.  These were the things I discovered I cannot live without.  Science, logic, mythology, history, rodeo, and creativity are what I need.  The rest–including books, to a point–is really nice but not at all necessary.
  3. Sometimes, it comes in handy.  This mostly happens in random trivia games, but since that’s what my family mostly plays, it comes in handy at home.  Also, when I’m watching a movie with my roommate, and the hero boards a bus that has the destination as “Elysian Fields,” I get to tell her why that was AWESOME.  I get to have conversations discussing lexicons and grammar and language origins and I don’t get lost.  I have a better understanding of my religion thanks to all the religious symbolism in literature.  Related, I’m actually conversant in a lot of subjects that I wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t needed to do research to appropriately understand my readings.  Now, I’m by no means an expert, but I can follow most conversations, if not contribute.  Also, I occasionally edit a paper or two and make some money, though that is no where near as satisfying as the other stuff.
  4. I did get to spend four (ish) years immersed in an art.  Okay, I kind of took the coolest classes ever in my major (excepting my Classics classes–they rocked my world and were way cooler).  And I learned what true dedication to an art is.  I respect the heck out of those who can manage that level of passion and truth in their life.  But I learned I needed to quit now, as I didn’t have that passion.

So do I really think arts majors should quit now?  Not really.  I do believe that many of us do it for the wrong reasons.   I do encourage you to evaluate.  Ask yourself those all important questions like: Am I souring to my love?  Can I not live without it?  Is there something I can feel better about personally and professionally (because one does affect the other, never imagine that to be less than the truth)? Is there something I am passionate about?  Am I turning into the kind of person I hate because I’m studying this?

I quit now because there are better, healthier things for me in this world.  I quit now because I refuse to be miserable.  I quit now because I know that I’m doing a disservice to the passionate.  I quit now to better foster MY passions.

Arts majors who are doing what they do because they cannot live without it, I tip my hat to you.  You are the people who will make those piss poor job opportunities into something amazing.  You are the people who will inspire others to be creative.  You are the people who will bring arts back into our culture.  I am not that person.  I am grateful you are.

Teaching, no greater call: I refuse to pick up the phone.

The other day I was talking with a good friend who is studying to be a teacher, and she strongly believes teaching is something that you’re “called” to, not that you choose to do.  Teaching is not a career fall back, nor is it for the faint of heart who enter the field because their degree isn’t good for much else.

I agree.

I was faced with this exact problem when I began to study English.  Everyone wanted to know if I was going into teaching.  To avoid the questions (Why not?) and brow-beating (You know, your degree won’t be good for much else.), I began to look at teaching programs.  I chose one that fit me best AND would enable me to teach most places in the continental US.  I worked hard, studied hard, and practically ran myself into the ground trying to figure out how I was going to get all the classes I needed for teaching in my undergrad without giving up my English major.

I hated my school, I hated my life, but–more than anything–I hated myself.  I hated that what I wanted to do was being eclipsed by what everyone (from family to friends to former teachers) thought I should do.  I realized I had not been called and quickly threw those plans out the window.

Years later, and I have my degree.  I didn’t put myself through the ridiculous hoop-jumping to get a degree I was never going to use.  Instead, I have this English degree that I can’t use until I go to my Masters program (no one takes a BA seriously).  People still ask me if I’m going into teaching.  I had one former teacher nearly tear up when I told her it wasn’t something I ever felt I could do; she feels that I would be a wonderful teacher and that it’s a true shame I refuse to.

But I’ve learned that as much as I enjoy teaching people one-on-one, or in small groups where interacting is not just possible but encouraged, I cannot stand the thought of doing it all day every day.  I’m passionate, involved, and out-of-the-box.  I fit the qualifications for teaching, I know this, except for one small thing: I care far too much and far too little at the same time.

I’m a bit of a workaholic.  As a teacher I know that I wouldn’t be able to control myself as I (barely) do now–there are no breaks in being a teacher.  I connect too much.  I would over-extend myself in less than a year.

However, contrastingly, my patience is limited when it comes to those who clearly do not try.  I’m not interested in helping a student who won’t help themselves.  Students who don’t want to be in class?  Okay, cool.  Leave, I don’t want you here either.  These are not the attitudes of a good group teacher.

So I refuse to teach school.  The call has come, time and again, from many different sources, but I refuse to pick up the phone.  I will not do the children I would come into contact with a disservice by providing them with a reluctant teacher.  That is not how things are done, not in my world.

All this being said, I am a teacher of young children in my congregation.  I have a class of the five coolest kids ever.  It’s taught me ways to be a better person, as well as how to teach best (learn from my students).   Where I do not feel called to teach school, I do feel called in my teaching position there.  These children have so much to teach me, I can’t help but think that’s why I’m there–not because they particularly need a teacher.  I love them dearly.

While others might find this to be proof that I should teach, I see it as proof I should not.  I love these students, care about them, and can’t imagine ever leaving them for another class.  All my fears about connecting too much are thankfully not too big a deal here–teaching at church there’s supposed to be this connection and love. However, this class (and the one I had before it) is proof to me that that is exactly what I would do in a school setting as well.  This strikes me as a bad scenario for all involved.

Though, even as they confirm how badly I would fail as a teacher elsewhere, I am so grateful for the beautiful children who make up my class.  They show me my failures, yes, my weaknesses, too, but at the end of the day, they also show me my goodness.  I cried like a baby when one of them told me they loved me.  I hung a thank you card from another at my cubicle.  I smile every time I look at it.  Something in me, in what I do, inspires these acts in return.  It’s been a marvelous experience.  Parents, thank you for your children.

So, as my path takes me elsewhere in life, places I would never achieve without some particularly extraordinary educators, I honor these amazing men and women.  It is because of your example that I know teaching would be a bad idea for me.  It is because of your passion, drive, and willingness to serve that I am who I am today.  Teachers, thank you for answering this great call.

My unholy rant for the day.

I don’t understand people who think that knowledge alone is enough.

Situation: Thesis to edit.

Response: Edit what I am given.

This is supposed to be a simple process.  I am given thesis, I edit said thesis, give it back, I am paid.  With a couple internet meltdowns and a teacher refusing to accept the finished project from the student I edited it for because of a lack of sources (among other grammar things that I should have caught and felt like a nimnol for not catching), it turned into an unholy mess.  Once I fixed the grammar errors that I should have caught, like the use of contractions in a formal paper and the confusion of the that/who pronoun usage (what can I say, I was tired and burnt out and had spent ten hours struggling to get the twenty-five paper understandable, much less grammar perfect), I sent it back to him.

Then he dropped the bomb on me: he had no idea what he needed to cite.  He thought he only had to cite direct quotes, not all the facts.  So, I went through and inserted the BARE MINIMUM of footnotes (darn you Chicago!!!!) that he needed to make his paper his own, not plagiarized.  He almost popped a blood vessel.  He actually said, “I didn’t know that I had to cite everything I learned in class.”  I explained to his the process of academia: establish your sources (who established themselves with their sources), and you become more credible.  Your conclusions, however, remain to be judged.  Perhaps this is an over-simplified view, but it’s the basic system.  I even agree that there is a degree of convoluted structure within this system, but I by no means feel it is completely useless.

Why?  Because our history defines us.  I may think that because I grew up being taught by teachers trained in the critical school of New Historicism, but I think there’s more to it than that.  I’m also a Classics minor (officially degreed and everything now), which required me to study many of the foundations of Western culture through the delivery systems of civilization, religion, and literature.  I loved history before I went into college, I find it even more beautiful now.  History makes us and breaks us by our own decision to ignore it or accept it.  Sometimes we don’t even realize when we accept it, but that’s the moment we move forward.

And that’s why I don’t understand people who think knowledge alone is enough.  Application of knowledge isn’t either.  Awareness of where that knowledge comes from goes hand in hand with those two.  Without that, society means nothing.  We can become nothing.  I am nothing.  With it?  With it, the entirety of the given universe is open to me, because my past is no more than a thought away.

The guy eventually added all the sources.  It was a crappy list of websites that didn’t do much for his credibility.  He didn’t really learn this all-important lesson.  Thankfully, I got reminded. I hate that I wasted all that time editing for a grade rather than for a sense of pride in scholarship or a passion for the subject.  I hate that I had to deal with the exacting demands of a teacher who I’ve never taken a class from and never will.  I hate that I had to be reminded.  It was a bitter moment, re-realizing what my past meant to me.

Knowledge alone will never be enough.  I’m glad for that.  Because I really like the people that populate the past, and because I’m very ready to bring the small pieces of them that I keep company with into the future.

Obsessing

I am obsessing.  I have been for months, but I’ve reached the climax of it.  The climax is not fun.

You see, there’s this award at my school that’s given to one graduating senior in every department that has a major.  It’s an award for scholarship.  My rival for this award doesn’t make sense.  She’s very involved in the department, because one teacher really likes her and so he involves her, but she’s not a scholar.  There’s no nice way to list her faults, and no matter how I phrase it, I’ll sound petty.  But, the fact remains that she hasn’t the vocabulary of a graduating high schooler.  And the teacher that involves her, he pads her grades . . . he  and another professor have decided that she can do no wrong!  Other teachers grade her on a scale that’s different from the rest of us students.  Her grade point average is comparable to mine (I’m graduating summa cum laude), and yet, she’s been rejected from every one of the graduate programs she’s applied to–this is a direct result of four years of coddling, no challenge, no growth.  Her work is on par.  It’s standard.

My work, on the other hand, had been labeled entry-level for graduate school.  It’s more than good, it’s outstanding.  I’m not afraid to admit that I know I am academically superior to my rival for this scholarly award.

This is why I’m obsessing.  I’ve done everything short of killing her to change the state of things, but she is a teacher’s pet and he’s campaigned for her.  I am not a pet.  I am a student who explores and challenges–this makes me recognized by the other teacher for my scholarship, but not necessarily liked.  The scholarly award has become a popularity contest and I am going batty because of it.  I’d rather see it down the toilet than cheapened like this.

Every time I think I’ve let this all go–no more tears, no more repeating the same arguments to the same people, over and over again–it comes back to haunt me.  I hear it overflowing and bubbling out of my lips once more.  I hate it.  I don’t even realize I’m doing it!  There’s something about this whole stinking situation that I am just not able to let go of.  I’ve talked to parents, friends, teachers who were involved–it boils down to this: I did want that award, but if they gave it to me now, I think I’d still be obsessing over it.

I never expected to get this award, I expected it to go to my rival in the first place, until our test results came in.  I blew the scores out of the water.  The others barely even came close to touching me.  In the history of the school, I got the highest scores.  All of a sudden, I felt like I had a fighting chance.  Especially since my rival has let her schoolwork suffer for her wedding plans.  But, of course, the teachers who have been padding her  grades campaigned for her, and the rest is history.

When I found out, unofficially, that she got the award, it was a hard blow personally.  But also, since I knew two other people in the department that I would be happy to see get the award, it wasn’t like I would be freaking out this much if it went to someone who deserved it.  She doesn’t.  On paper, we look equally good.  In reality, she’s been piggy-backing off our department members for years.   And I’m obsessing.  Can’t you see?  I’m obsessing about something I can do nothing about.  I don’t want to kill anyone, I don’t want her to go down in the flames she is going down in academically, I don’t want this award to be cheapened, but I  can’t do anything about those last two.

All I can do is breathe.  And stop thinking about it.  I’m not sure I can do that, but I’m going to try.  Because this just makes my life unnecessarily harder, and I’m better than this petty attitude.  Ultimately, what matters is the education that I have gotten for myself.  And boy howdy, have I ever.  Some teachers know that.  Others don’t.  Doesn’t matter if the whole world doesn’t know it.  Because I do.  I know that I have taken advantage of my education, and wish to continue learning inside and outside of school.  This is the important thing.

And if I have to obsess about something?  That’s what it’s going to be.