So I posted a weird animation I did using the antiquated MS Paint application and basic stop-action editing on my mac in Imovie. Belle Yang convinced me to put it up and I want to acknowledge her support and encouragement over the years. If you haven't checked out her work, I urge you to visit either her Red Room page or her personal site http://belleyang.com. Very important American voice (and eye). She has a graphic novel coming out in the next year or so from Norton. I promise you, it will be brilliant.
As for me, I've just logged in a whole year here in the South. I live in the NODA arts district of Charlotte and teach composition, grammar and a Humanities course, "Culture and Diversity", at a local vocational college called ECPI. Honestly, I'm learning more from my students than they could ever learn from me- especially in that Humanities class. Reminds me that over the years I've been lucky enough to lead and be led by some tremendously diverse classrooms. In addition to all the amazing students I've shared a race with, I've taught ESL speakers in Taiwan, Gwich'in and Athabaskans in Alaska, the children of migrant farm workers in Monterey and these wildly lively and multi-racial classes here in North Carolina. But, ECPI is exhausting. It's a private institution and I'm teaching (as in, I'm in front of the class) a full 30 hours a week, but it's worth it. It's a thrill and a challenge and at the end of the day I feel like I've grown and really given these students a taste of what classes at a major university are like. Most of them are either nursing or computer tech students and when they walk into my classroom they're indignant that they should be subjected to English or lectures on multiculturalism, diversity or sexism in the workplace. But by the time they walk out of that first class, they're stoked. Memorizing interventions for an obstructed airway or learning to take apart and put together a motherboard blindfolded like a Kalashnikov-fondling guerilla is all fine and good, but writing can snag the spirit in a completely different way. As you all know. Give them a chance to express themselves, to illuminate all the hardship and inspiration in their lives with words (hell, one of my student's ex-boyfriends got his leg blown off with a shotgun the other day and she received the call in class), and it's golden. The key is to get them to write creatively at first, then take specific examples of their own writing to demonstrate grammatical rules. I promise you this- all that sentence diagramming bullshit does not fly. I've only taught at "open" universities like UAF or CSUMB and these kids have a major aversion to the way English was taught in high school. They'd rather endure the monotony of a typing skills class than have to identify a prepositional phrase. Writing is all about the ear. Just like music. If they see it enough times in a context they're emotionally connected with, it becomes something more important that just grammar. It becomes song. Their song.
Pedagogically, I might get ripped for this blog, but that's the way I've been doing it for a long time and it's been working. These kids are not just walking out of my classrooms with a stronger grammatical arsenal, they're coming out with the belief that writing can empower them.
Anyway, there you have it. I didn't expect to write about teaching when I sat down this afternoon, but it's been renting alot of space in my head lately. I'm also working on a new solo album and finishing a young adult novel called Bathyspheria, which I wrote in weekly installments for my five-year-old son as I wasn't able to see him for a big chunk of '07 due to my own father's illness and other circumstances.
Again, go check out Belle.