On Rage, Responsibility, and Resilience

I'm not sure what I should write about anymore. That goes for the blog as much as for my poetry. I've been waking up each morning very early and allowing a small half hour for writing, but little has come of it. A draft revision here. Indulgent, self-pitying ramblings there. Sometimes I just stare at the page, or at the clock. 

Vacillating between my children's distance education and teaching my own classes online has been challenging, sure, but I knew it would be. Yesterday was the first day I felt like we had a good rhythm going, like we were on the right track -- I had some optimism. My kids were engaged and doing what they needed to; I borrowed a Chromebook from our school district on Wednesday so that my youngest could do some of her online math and science activities next to me, while I responded to student emails and graded. 

I was not fully prepared for answering quite so many emails. I don't know why -- it makes sense -- and yet it means that I haven't been able to grade quite so much. I participate in the discussion boards, but if the students don't respond to my comments I have no idea whether or not they are reading those comments, and those comments are the only supplement I have right now for lecturing and classroom discussion. 

This little guy's back in my office. I actually miss my office.
Additionally, quite a few of my students haven't participated at all in the classroom activities. They haven't answered emails. I've pushed back deadlines to give them time -- I know that quite a few don't have regular access to technology, because they are sharing computers with family members or they have spotty WiFi or they are continuing to work through the pandemic, because they are employed by grocery and convenience stores or restaurants that offer take-out or delivery. Some of them have sick family members. Some of them went through surgery just before the pandemic and are in a kind of fraught recovery -- their risk of infection is so much greater, and their ability to protect themselves has become so diminished. I'm trying not to lose them, in a figurative sense as well as, unfortunately, a literal one.

And some of them are using email to ask for clarification about assignments, to get feedback for papers, and this is really great. I'm "talking" with those students perhaps more than I would have in a regular semester, and that's kind of lovely. It's one of the aspects of community college that I really value -- the mentoring, where I can see actual growth and results from my facilitation in their learning, my guidance.

But some students are more interested in working the system, and taking advantage of this crisis, than actually doing work. Those students are few and far between, but they are there, and they are a massive time-suck. They send emails and expect ... not answers, but gratification. They want the world to bend to their will simply because they desire it. I woke up at two in the morning full of rage thinking about this. These students are the ones who expect to be spoonfed learning, either because they are the tragic product of helicopter parenting, or our ridiculous public education system that celebrates students who are mildly competent and pushes through everyone who isn't. Or they've been told that their worries and anxieties, which are normal and part of growing into adulthood, are somehow debilitating and an excuse to bypass resilience. To bypass effort. 

I have no idea if I'm helping my own three children meet their educational needs right now because I'm so preoccupied with my students. But I know that as I continue parenting, if anything, I would like to teach my children to see discomfort as a creative obstruction, not as a crutch.  I would like to teach them to meet challenges through problem-solving, through critical thinking, without negotiation or complaint. I would like to teach them that they are responsible, too, for their learning. That they are the ones most responsible for their learning.

Because of my two a.m. wakefulness I overslept and so have my children. I have a department meeting at noon. I have so many papers to grade. And more emails to answer. I'm so discouraged right now, but I'm trying to remind myself, in the aftermath of my anger, that I need to be resilient, too. So, onward. Once more "unto the breach," the fucked up world. Summoning my best King Henry right now:
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage
Or something like that.


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