A Hard Teacher

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Hello from the bus,

We are on the way back to Bloomsburg after a day in the city. It was a busy day, and while we did things to expedite the time between events, it seemed the day was more harried and missing any free moments than ever before. I did have a good day and enjoyed my time with the students. I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know a couple better than I did. It is always interesting to here about the backgrounds and hear about how they got to Bloomsburg. Understanding the foundation a student brings to class or seeing how they conduct themselves in a non-classroom environment. Is always telling. Listening carefully to what one says is also another way to begin to have some insight into who he or she really is. Experiences with another are always the true test and the ultimate reveal-er of one’s true character.

As an English professor, and particularly one who considers how technology affects the writing process or one who considers carefully how language and document design work rhetorically, how one sends an email, for instance says a lot to me. This past week I received two emails from a student, neither of which contained a salutation not a signing of the student’s name. The lack of either element could demonstrate a couple of things. It could demonstrate that this student did not know better; it could reveal that the student was lazy and merely did not take the appropriate time not consider the audience. It could illustrate a lack of professionalism on the student’s part. Those would be the possibilities if I knew nothing about the student. Because I have some previous experience with the writer in this case, it is easier to come to a more accurate conclusion. Little do students seem to realize how both what is written as well as how it is designed reveals so much. Again, a history with this student makes coming to a conclusion much simpler.

I was listening to part of the soundtrack from the movie, The Last Samurai and one song in that soundtrack is the title for this blog entry. This time seven years ago I was recovering from a serious motorcycle accident and this particular coming weekend that same fall, I went back out to California to see Marco and I also visited the person who had so turned my summer upside down. What I do remember was preparing dinner and staying the night to listen and offer support, but I also remember needing to be a gentleman. That issue has been a title in an earlier blog and something that I have spent significant and intentional time managing. That is both a personal commitment as well as trying to obey my grandmother. It has been disconcerting to me that this very thing has been questioned a couple of times. It also reminds me that no matter how much one does, it is easy in some ways to have those values questioned. I think my intentional conversations about “being a professor is more than what I do, it is who I am.” has certainly helped. I actually made a specific phone call at one point about things raised that I believe impugned my character (this incident caught me completely off guard, I must admit). I was grateful for the words of someone I have known for the entire time I have been at BU (and this is not about either recent or upcoming journeys, I might add). I think about a promise made this past summer to a life-long person I love deeply and following through on that promise was significant to me. Sometimes, or more likely many times, doing the right thing is certainly not the easy thing, but I am sure it has saved me from other difficulties. Those difficult things are sometimes the hard lessons which test us. They are the very lessons we will learn the best and remember the longest.

Good morning, it is now Friday morning, and fortunately, I did get some sleep. As I was out in California seven years ago at this time, it was evident to me that the consequences of living in a situation that devalued one or treated them with disrespect caused a person to lose their own personage, if you will. I think of my own past, in an attempt to create a better marriage, (and this was my counselor’s assessment) I allowed myself to not only to be an abused person, but to remain there. One reading this certainly has the right to question the sanity of such an action, but when one has grows up a particular way, it is not surprising for him or her to gravitate toward similar situations, often without his or her realization that it is even happening. To change that pattern becomes a life-long struggle. Even after making progress in changing such a pattern, I am not convinced that anyone ever totally eradicates (and I use that word intentionally) the propensity for that sort of behavior. I have noted my own struggles with my own mother and that abuse in the past (see my July 11th blog), but what I have realized that my desire to give, which I have been told began before I was even two, was probably the result in my being abandoned as a small child. I should note this was from my biological parents. Well, while I am sure I did not realize it, but the fact that my grandparents with whom I then went to live both worked all day probably contributed to that sense of unease and loneliness. I learned that being helpful or useful made me valued; not that I had a clear sense of cause/effect at the age of two or even by the time I moved to my adoptive parents’ house when I was almost five. What I do know about myself is that I try to make other peoples’ lives better if I am given the gift of being a part of their life. It is something I do because I feel better about myself. That can, in and of itself, be seen as selfish. While that might not be my intention, it can become the consequence. That is really what I was trying to get at in an earlier blog. Anytime selfishness, perceived or real, is possible or actual, the result is probably going to be negative. I think that is the hard lesson I am learning at the moment. What makes that such a hard lesson is that giving is such a part of my fabric, my existence. It is one of the fundamental characteristics that most would probably note.

As I have been looking at the data, the theory, and the interpretation of all the information for the upcoming OSCLG Conference, it is impossible for me to not see how this fundamental part of me was part of the creation of a relationship that used words that are familial, relational, personal. It is a lesson in understanding culture, gender, and generation. It is an amazing transcript of real care and helps me see how I was instrumental in developing something of beauty, complexity, and substance. It is something for which I am grateful. It has been a learning experience and I am sure will continue to be so. It provided me a sense of something that has , or had, never occurred in my life and for that I am certainly blessed. I am sure there will be more lessons, and I have no doubt that some of them will be hard ones. However, anything worth having is worth working for, it is worth admitting when there are mistakes for which I am accountable. It is a gift because when such an amazing family allows you to be part of them, you are blessed. A good lesson to have learned. Interestingly, as I tell my students, social networking is something they must do. They must have a footprint. The paper being researched and presented is certainly quite the footprint, but one that was mutually decided.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

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