Tuesday, April 26, 2011


From birth until seven years ago, I was weak and I knew it. I was complacent and soft, silent and unsure. I was 20 years old and I knew I was headed for obscurity. I saw people that I wished I could be like and I expressed my frustration to a college professor. The advice this professor gave to me has resonated: "Strength and success are just one wise decision at a time."

I was once so sensitive and had no resilience; I thought I had no value. I once ignored my problems, believing that I deserved them and I could not affect change. Seven years of one. wise. decision. at. a. time. I have proven myself wrong.

I once had anxiety about speaking and being wrong, but that WAS my weakness. The fear of being wrong or not knowing- the fear of looking foolish and asking questions caused me to run from what I couldn't control. I stayed with very little.

In the past seven years, I met a woman whose strength inspired me. Her relentless pursuit for life and love encouraged me. She was an endless river of brilliance and goodness with whom I could achieve anything, so long as she was with me.

18 months into our marriage and 16 months into her life altering illness, I know that her condition and her treatments are not my fault- but they are my responsibility. Watching this unfold is sad- but it is an honor, and my PLEASURE to become who she needs and treat her as she deserves.

After these past seven years and my experiences with my wife, I can give one word of additional advice to someone who is as frustrated as I once was: Choose dialogue; everything else is running away.

Dialogue is often uncomfortable and sometimes entrenching or even polarizing, but change and healing are impossible without it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Understand. Create.

Look at this Rubik's Cube. What do you see? What do you remember?

I spent most of my time in public school asking "why am I learning this?" It haunted me, so I always asked. There were a lot of improvised answers from teachers, usually having to do with unlikely scenarios where I held a very specific occupation. Kids can sense insincerity, so my enthusiasm was nil.

No one could tell me why I should care. Sure, they would paint a picture of how difficult my life would be when I was unable to obtain a steady job, but why was one thing connected to the other? Why would I be expected to know the cause of the Civil War as an accountant? What significance have sine, cosine and tangent to a salesman? At any rate, I had no idea what I even wanted to do, so it was even harder to find relevance in 'general studies.'

Now, as I have broken past the genesis of becoming an English teacher, the future student I fear most is myself. What do I tell my young self when asked the significance of English? What is my advocacy statement? Am I a salesman pushing a product? Am I using sine over cosine?? Am I tricking them into justifying my job??? Of course not. As an adult, I know the significance of being able to communicate ideas through writing. I know the importance of being able to gather the ideas of others through reading. At least, I do now.

As I did with you at the beginning, I would grab a distinguished object. maybe a Rubik's Cube, maybe a coffee mug; it's irrelevant, really. I would say "what is this?" I would probe on: "what does it remind you of? Have you seen this before? Where? Who was there? What was happening? Does the movement remind you of anything? What about the texture? Is it like the texture of something else?" Of course, there are no wrong answers. Nor are there right answers. Just answers. Just ideas.

English is so important because ideas must be shared.

Now, I can help out my teacher cohorts. Why are these ideas so important and where do they come from? You must know ideas so you can understand the world you live in, how it exists and why it exists they way it does. These ideas come from information. Information comes from your history teacher, your science teacher, your math teacher, your independent reading, etc. You must also know that all knowledge is connected. I will show you how language IS history. Music IS science. Gym class IS math.

Now that you have the information, do you agree? Your understanding must now become creation. Create structures- physical and cognitive. This is the only way to hand someone your ideas.

I am a human. I understand. I have created. This is who I am.