Running, Jogging or Limping toward Spring Break

IMG_1616Hello from my office,

It is about 8:30 and I still have some work to finish up, especially some recommendations I have promised students by the morning, so that will be my next task. I have been meeting with students or in class most of the day. I do not have classes on Thursdays and because of conferences this week (over 40 of them), I have canceled Friday’s Foundations classes. So, I am effectively done teaching until after Spring break. When I was in college, I never went on a Spring Break excursion. There are two reasons for that: first, I was usually on choir tour when I was at Dana College; and second, even when I was at the University of Iowa my junior year, while there was no choir tour, I worked. I was not a student who either had the money nor someone to foot the bill for me to find my way to a Revenge of the Nerds II or some other __________ (you fill in the blank) style of a Spring Break extravaganza. Even now, I plan to stay here in Bloomsburg for the most part and work. I have three significant projects to get off my plate as well as get all my grading caught up. It will certainly be a working break, and I am okay with that. I do want to have the end of the semester go as well as possible for both sides of that “blank-stare-equation”.

It has been a long day and I have been chugging Gatorade like it is going out of style. Dehydration is a significant issue for me and it has certainly reared its ugly head in the last 24 hours. It is so frustrating to continually battle some of this, but more importantly, I am here to battle, so this is not a complaint (at least not completely) and I am certainly not lamenting my life because I am so fortunate to have the life I do. However, what I am sure of is that, not all that different from my students, is I am tired and therefore, appreciate any sort of respite from the usual requirements of a week.

As I met with my students today, I was reminded of how diverse they are, and this is not a comment about their ethnicity. It is about their educational backgrounds (and more specifically, their writing history). I have some unbelievably talented students and strong writers in all of my classes. I have some exceptionally intelligent students who are not in my classes at the moment, nor have they been in the past, but they are phenomenal students. They value the opportunity they have here at Bloomsburg and they are doing everything they can in their power to “claim their education”. I think one of the best things I have ever been fortunate enough to read about being in the academy is this particular article. It is one based on the address Adrienne Rich gave at Rutgers University some time ago. Rather than seeing the university as the next educational mill, she argues that if one is to “claim” this opportunity to be educated, he or she must consider that “they are joining a scholarly community” (Claiming an Education 2). Certainly some of the students I met during the last three days have understood or latched onto that concept. It is difficult to maintain focus on it all of the time, and I for one certainly know that. However, I think it is one of the most fundamental concepts someone can have if they are going to invest wisely in their education.

I wonder at times if what I do really matters, and I am not searching nor am I fishing for compliments, so please do not go there. It is when I feel like everything I have said has somehow fallen on deaf ears or even more sadly that the student is almost defiant (and yes, I mean that word versus a misspelling of definite), almost daring me to make them learn, or write more effectively, or somehow believe that writing has value. I had some of that tonight and it was difficult for me to maintain a sense of decorum, but I did. I am reminded of my former pastor once telling me that I would do well in college unless I just F$!#@*ed off. What I know now is he was correct. His name was Fred Peters and he was my pastor when I first got out of the service. I think he kicked my back end harder than my father ever did, and I needed it at that point.

So what actually lit the fire under my proverbial ass, and got me to do my work? It was another amazing professor (actually two of them) at Dana College. Dr. John W. Nielsen, the director of the Humanities program, and Dr. Richard S. Jorgensen, my history advisor, together taught me to love learning. What an amazing gift they provided me. I think that up until then I merely did what was expected, if even that. I was content to be what my father noted with disdain “average”. I did not really know what I was capable of, even in spite of my work in the service that had been pretty good work. The demons of my background kept me from believing that I had much to offer. Those demons might not be as powerful now, but they are still, nevertheless, demons. I think there were two specific events in my sophomore year at Dana that fundamentally changed my life. The first was the opportunity given to me by Harold and Dorothy Wright when they paid my way to go to Europe with Dr. Nielsen in January of 1981. The second was the entire Humanities program at Dana College, which was a three semester course. I learned “how to learn”. Between walking the streets with Dr. Nielsen in Copenhagen, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Aachen, Frankfort, Garmisch Partenkirken, or Paris and listening to his wise counsel in the first class coaches on the eRail, I found that learning was being a sponge. It was soaking up everything possible. The humanities course had prepared me to walk through that European history book. I think perhaps the other thing that changed my life was learning another language. I am still working on adding more. I love to hear other languages and I am so enamored by how language works and how it reveals who we are. I am so envious of those who speak three or four languages fluently. So it is time to learn some more.

That is part of my plan for the next months. I am going to learn Spanish. I am going to make myself be able to at least communicate and be able to comprehend. I want to learn the grammar and the patterns and the vocabulary. It is my hope that I will not sound completely like a “gringo” as I work on my pronunciation. If I do, I am sure someone will let me know. Well, it is time to get back to the recommendations. If you are going somewhere fun during break, have a great time and please do not let me know.

Thanks for reading as always.

Dr. Martin

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