Monday, July 18, 2016

The Geographical Lottery

Hi friends. 

I am stressed out. I am also heartsick over yesterday morning's shootings in my state capital of Baton Rouge. Sometimes when I sit & write, I'm so eager to do so I actually vibrate a little. This is not one of those times. I think I have a few things to say, a few photos of the kids I'd like to log for the record, but we'll see how it goes. My inclination is to type, Meh, & curl up in a ball & sniffle & go to sleep. 

As promised last week, the kids & I began the week making what'll soon become a familiar journey to school to get them registered. It was 100 degrees when we arrived, but I made them pose for these before we went inside.  

After the relatively easy registration process was behind us, I was given a key to my classroom.

So, this is it.


This week I am attending a seminar where I am to learn more about teaching AP Literature. It's an all-day affair lasting through Thursday, & it actually began a few hours ago, depending on when & if I find a moment to get this posted. 

Once the seminar is behind me, the hard work of readying the classroom will commence. I have a few plans for the room, though I am being realistic with myself about what's going to get done before school begins. It's going to be a process, likely a slow process, something I'll tweak & adjust & make perfect over time. Like Trey. 

On Wednesday, we all went to the dentist. Henry was perfect; he did so well. I'm not being sarcastic.  

Friday was an interesting day. (You may've noted I skipped Tuesday & Thursday . . . I really cannot recall much about either of those days last week. I'm sure I drank some coffee & read something & pulled my hair over Henry's marginal potty progress) So, anyway, I got up a little earlier than usual Friday, at least considering it is summer, & we didn't have anything on the agenda for the day. I got up about eight-thirty, okay?  

As the day progressed, I made some headway into my grand plans to figure out when I am going to cover what with my classes. I mentioned this task at lunch yesterday, & Trey, always supportive, said, "Just start at the beginning of the book."

And you know, I did. With the exception of my AP seniors, I'll be using a British literature text in all my classes, a text with which I am slowly familiarizing myself. I tell you, there's a lot I don't know. England has been around, like, forever. I think this is one reason I always preferred American literature as a student; the chronology is much easier to sort out.  

I don't want to just thrust a poem in someone's face & tell them to read it & find some metaphors. I want them to know who wrote it, & when, & what was happening in the world at the time that possibly prompted or influenced the work. 

From what I've read thus far, the text does a nice job of supplying what I think are needed details about the political, cultural, & religious happenings in England during the various literary periods. My goal is to hand students a list of poems & novels & plays in May & have them (successfully & with vigor!) tell me during which period of British literature the various works were composed. By the way, British literature will heretofore be known as Brit lit

So anyway, Friday. I was so proud of the work I'd done Friday I decided to take myself to see Tarzan that evening. Before I left the house, & thanks largely to my news addiction, I became aware of the happenings in Turkey. I briefly tried to figure out what was going on, realized no one really knew, & left to see Tarzan.

Turkey is an interesting country. Geographically, Turkey kind of struck out. Based on what little I know of its political situation, the people of Turkey seem to have one foot in the Middle East, & one foot in Europe. Europe's various governments are secular in nature, while Middle Eastern governments are, well, not. What happened Friday was an attempted takeover of the Turkish government by the Turkish military, not an unprecedented event in Turkish history. I was hopeful the coup would succeed, as Turkey's current leader, Erdogan, doesn't seem to be a nice guy who's genuinely interested in democracy & freedom for all; he leans a little too far Islamist for me. 

I don't want to overdramatize things, but Europe is in a battle for its soul, & there were a few important skirmishes last week, first in France, & then in Turkey. Some have speculated that Erdogan actually staged the "coup," that it was not legitimate, rather a faux coup that allowed him to reassert himself, to bolster his power, to say, See, I need to step on people's necks because they're plotting against me. This could be true. I've never come out & said this directly, but I am not an expert on the inner workings of the Turkish government, or its military. 

So, maybe the coup was a fake out, the whole thing staged by Erdogan; if this is true, he is incredibly despicable as many people lost their lives during the hours this all unfolded, & he is still rounding up his enemies as I type. I would like to think that, after the recent attack at the airport in Istanbul, followed by events in France last week, the coup was legit. I don't know how much time it takes to plan a coup against the Turkish (or any) government, so maybe last week's slaughter in France had nothing at all to do with what happened in Turkey. Maybe the Turkish military was, like me, inspired by Britain's recent vote to leave the European Union; maybe they wanted to try & reclaim their country, too. I don't know. I don't feel all that bad about not knowing because everything I've read regarding Friday's events has been mere speculation; no one else seems to know much either, other than the fact that Erdogan is still in charge, which I think is unfortunate. 

So, with all this on my mind, I went & sat & watched Tarzan, which is actually a decent movie. It's an adult movie, mind you. There's some violence, & some disturbing scenes, & a little language, & a lot of Alexander Skarsgard. It's not animated or in any way kid-friendly, much to the disappointment of the couple down front who came in late with their two young boys, sat down for about five minutes, & then left.     

With Tarzan & Turkey still on my mind, I crawled in bed Friday night with my Brit lit text & read some more. You know why so much phenomenal literature comes from the British? Because, as the text I'll be using explains:

Britain's geographical placement both buffered it from the religious and political controversies of Europe and led to its ascension as the sea power of the world. Its national character included a broad streak of independent thinking whereby it early on became a veritable hotbed of Protestantism and an eventual nursery for democratic ideas and humanitarian reforms.

This fall, I have to cover Beowulf & a few other early, early pieces that are just not my favorites, but we're going to talk about them because they are important. They show the evolution of the English language, for one. It's unfathomable what the world owes the British people who came before us, & while they may not have been inherently smarter or better writers than could be found elsewhere in the world, they had the opportunity to sit & think, to sit & write, & they produced countless masterpieces. Name a Turkish novelist. Name a Syrian novelist. Ah, see?

Recall if you will my thoughts on Katniss Everdeen from several years ago.

It all comes back to Maslow's hierarchy.

When turmoil dominates your life, you don't often have the chance to move beyond physiological needs & safety needs. Had Jane Austen been born in Iran, there'd likely be no Mr. Darcy.

The above quote (We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything) is from Golding's Lord of the Flies. Golding likely is being a bit sarcastic here, playing on stereotypes of superiority. English or not, many of the boys quickly abandon rules & embrace savagery. Sarcastic or not, I do love the quote, especially in light of my recent deep thinking about the immense contribution of the British to literature, as well as to religious & political thought, & the interplay of the two.

I hope my classroom is like Britain, a little isolated alcove where people can think & read & write, shutting out the world's turmoil.

I hope my home is a Britain for my own kids, a place they can flourish because they don't have a care in the world. What a tragedy, a waste of a rich natural resource, that so many kids today, whether in their home or their school, rarely, if ever, have a place to which they can run where they feel safe enough, & full enough, & loved enough, to reach the upper levels of Maslow's hierarchy, to read & write & invent & do all the things people do when they aren't starving, or scared, or emotionally battered by life's tribulations.

I will, the Lord willing, return next week to share the fascinating details of this week's seminar. I will also divulge more of my plans for my schoolroom. Hint: vibrant curtains & laminating large posters of book cover art will be involved.


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