Salty Sunday Cerebrations…
Welcome to the land of rain, fog and dreary days sans le snow. To be fair we did have sunny weather yesterday, which Joe and I used to stroll the streets of Brussels. The wind and rain came back last night. It was so windy, it sounded like we were sleeping in an ocean-front apartment. It is the perfect day to sip and stare with the Olympics playing in the background. I’m snuggled up on my yellow, window-seat chair too lazy to clean or read, so I figured what the hell? Let’s try to write something.
Work has been busy; life has been good. Last weekend we whooped it up in Lille with friends.
Next weekend, Joe and I are going to Tongeren where I hope to find an antique something or other to buy him for his birthday. And then the weekend after that my daughter and her little heathen arrive for a three-week visit. I’m so excited about this. We have all sorts of family fun planned, plus our cherished Mama/Daughter couch/wine time. Fingers crossed we even get a snow day or two, but that hasn’t been our reality yet this winter.
Mostly though (when I’m not working or exploring my corner of the world), I find myself sipping and staring and wondering what tomorrow will bring: Something I imagine we all find ourselves doing during February, that time post holidays, pre Spring and summer fun.
One of the perks of my job is that I bring someone else’s words to life and try to make them relevant to the souls in my room, who are still trying to figure out what to do with their today yet alone contemplate tomorrow. In teacher talk we do this via our essential questions. My 9th graders are reading Elie Wiesel’s Night, and I began the week asking them how we are witnesses to history and messengers to humanity. Our conversation wasn’t earth shattering, but it did the trick, and we made the connections we needed to make, etc. etc. But, I keep finding myself pondering the question. What messages are we sending to our future selves? And are we listening to those of our beforeigners (haven’t watched that show, but LOVE this word)?
Among we teacherly types, the essential question is more along the lines of WTF? We’re astounded to see so much censorship taking place and so much I can’t even think of the right terminology here, so much finger pointing, so little reflection going on. Critical thinking is not taking place where decisions about what and how to teach seem to be taking place. It feels like open discourse is quickly becoming a dinosaur.
There is no hidden agenda in exposing students to multiple views and to the stories of our past, and, yes, that includes how we have manipulated those histories with our words. There is, however, a very blatant agenda when you conceal or sanitize the uglies that are part of our story while vilifying those who do not fit your mold of what is right and what is wrong. To not explore or discuss what makes us uncomfortable is to establish a norm that is akin to burying our heads in the sand while the world around us continues to blow up — or progress without us.
I’m lucky, in my school, I am still allowed to teach a novel about the holocaust, one that eloquently brings forth the questions we need to ask ourselves, and, yes, it also shares the horrors of what we can do to each other. I’m also teaching Catcher in the Rye to my 10th graders, which addresses a multitude of our uncomfortable complexities — issues basically rooted in concealing a truth versus addressing it — and having my 11th and 12th grade students use literary (also called critical) theories to analyze text. [Disclaimer: I don’t teach critical race, but I do teach post colonial, and when it comes time for students to choose their own theories to analyze text with, I would not deter a student from using critical race — caps not included, so that I can remind folk these are methodologies/lenses/NOT official mandates or calls to action]. And while, as of today, there is no pressure for me not to teach these things, I worry that one day in my near future there might be. History has taught me where that kind of censorship will lead. Perhaps what I’m reading and discussing with my colleagues is merely just hype, but the fact it’s even making news is a concern. It is the year 2022, and I find myself closer to 1984 than I care to think.
History has also taught me that where’s there’s strife, there is eventually growth. We need to be challenged to grow. So perhaps where we are now is a mere ripple, and we will resolve this and go back to moving forward. And yeah I know that while I’m warm and well fed (and read) nestled on my comfy chair, the drums of war are beating, the effects of climate change are doing their thing, and winter is not coming for some of us (despite us wanting it to snow so badly lol). It is the way of our lives — we move forward, backward, then forward again, until perhaps we don’t. The good news is living is taking place and despite the uglies, there is always good in that.
And that, my friends, is way more than you wanted to know of what goes through my head when I’m lazy on a rainy day.