Monday, March 7, 2016

Para hacerlos listos

A kid I taught back in the day made an extremely cool thing.

Kevin is, as he mentions, a first generation college student who made the extra-far leap of choosing to go a really, really long way from home (1,995 miles, give or take). His story is absolutely his own even while it echoes a pattern familiar to many first generation students.

When we knew each other, I'd say we had a positive and unremarkable teacher-student relationship. He was an apt, well-mannered, and pretty low-maintenance student. He, I hope, learned and felt secure in my classroom (I think he did). I remember him being on the quiet side, though I heard that changed the next year, to the mild surprise and great delight of my colleagues.

That, actually, is the thing that stuck in my mind about Kevin for a long time: what happened after I knew him. Apparently, right about the time I moved away, he commenced a serious personal growth spurt. The teachers who followed me told me stories about our mutual student that made it seem like the person they were teaching was not quite the same kid I had taught. From far away, I wondered where he was heading and hoped that GRMS was giving him a space to try out, maybe even find, the still-undefined aspects of himself that would become the biggest and best parts of who he is.

Kevin's apparent shift in 8th grade is not really a surprise. All he was doing was getting ready to be himself. It's exactly what every student I ever taught is always doing, and it's one of our greatest privileges and responsibilities as educators to be around for that and provide some of the experience and tools they will build into themselves. This project make me so proud, but not because I have any delusions that I was a big influence on this kid's life. At most, I was one rung on the ladder he climbed to become himself.* That's the job of every teacher Kevin ever had, along with his parents and family and friends and community. Be some part of the ladder. Help him be ready.

*Which, I assume, he's still in the process of doing. At least I hope so, because I sure as hell still am.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What I Say

From Monday's mass readings (emphasis mine; probably goes without saying):
When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  
And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

If anything the historical person Jesus of Nazareth claimed about himself is true, then he is the most significant human ever to live. I happen to believe everything he said about himself, and consequently that the fact of his being is the most significant fact about all history, all reality. That, along with a lot of massive implications, is who I say Jesus is with my intellect and my words. I've thought about it a lot, as most of you will know. I'm convinced. I believe.

And yet: Do I? How should I live if I believe this? How does my awareness of the fact of Jesus shape my life?

I wonder about this every time I hear this reading. It might be the most uncomfortable line in the Gospel for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


I was thinking I really liked my outfit today, and then I noticed it matches the blog.

Irrelevant, except it's a fine excuse to post a song...

Also, despite being almost 31, I continue to look 12. Just a very tired 12 year old.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On generative times and when it's not one

Author John Green and his brother Hank make videos in which they address each other, and lots of people have watched them for quite a few years now. Their most recent is my favorite in a long time:

It reminds me of a period when both John and Hank were churning out vlogs that hit me in my gut the way this one does, and how that was (probably, if I were to guess) tied to a particular set of circumstances. Once those circumstances went away, they continued making worth-watching vlogs that just happened to not hit me in quite the same visceral way.

And then that hit me, too. There are stretches of time when, for a magical chemical mix of reasons, I feel like I'm onto something, like I'm on the verge of encountering something really marvelous. I can write, think, do, whatever else with energy and direction and inspiration. Then, on the other hand, there are stretches where... well, where that's not the case. It's just ordinary doing stuff.

Right now is a not-onto-something phase. Everything is dandy, and it also seems sort of faded. That's fine. I don't like it, but I'm not worried about it. Maybe this should prompt me to go looking for something to be excited about, but I'm pretty sure that's how I got here - I came for something exciting, and it's the same thing it ever was. Meanwhile, the alchemy of the moment happens to be such that I'm not feeling on the verge of something marvelous.

I'm pretty sure my mom started worrying about me about a paragraph ago, but my point is not that there's something wrong. This video reminded also me that the goodness and wonder of the world aren't dependent on how spunky I feel. There's nothing I can do to make them not be there. I'm in kind of a slogging along time, but there are always little wonders on the way.

P.S. A belated happy birthday and much Brownsville love to Sean.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Things I Learned This Week: Greyhound Edition

  • Greyhound: viable mode of transportation if you're going a medium distance and need to get work done on the way, even if it smells like a portapotty. 
  • I did, in fact, learn stuff in year one of Ph.D. studies. I was skeptical of this in May, but somehow being back in class for year two, feel like I know all kinds of stuff.
  • Roommate babies are the best babies.

  • A side of hummus at my favorite Mediterranean place is as much in quantity as a tub from the grocery store and less in cost. Game over, snack attacks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First day of school!

Year two. Got this biz on lockdown.

Also, this is the part where I start writing about academia as promised in the sidebar.

Happy birthday!

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In plain English, it's Mary's birthday.

Lots of Catholics have a soft spot for Mary, and lots of Catholic converts and reverts had a soft spot for her well before they came into the Church. I'm one of those. She has had her gentle guiding hand on my back all my life.

Photos: The Church of St. Ann in Jerusalem, purported to be the site of Mary's birth. January 2010.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Things I Learned This Week: Transparent Brained Fish Edition

Whut nature stop ur showing off
  • This thing is a real animal. It's called a barreleye fish, and it's head is in fact transparent. The green blobs are its eyes, which are turned 90 degreed upwards to watch for the silhouettes of its prey in the blackness of the deep ocean. Look upon the Lord's creation, ye mortals, and tremble. 
  • Farmer's market produce doesn't magically last forever. This should not be something I just learned this week.
  • If you're getting back on the coffee train after being off it for a while, start slow. Do not jump right back into full mugs of heavy diesel cold press. Your heart will have things to say to you.