In the spirit of John Legend’s new crusade “Wake Up Everybody” (though some of you from Detroit may remember this as Teddy Pendergrass on WJLB reminding you that it was time to get to school and not necessarily an anthem for grass movements), I’d like to reflect on teachers that changed my life. No I don’t think teaching is some sort of “Ghost Whisper” job you get when you can inherently talk to the natives without moving your lips. I think teaching is damn hard work for no money and you just might as well go into it without expectations and lots of Five Hour Energy Drinks. In other words, it’s the new brick breaking.
When I was in third grade in Detroit, my teacher, Miss Bailey, read a horrible poem I wrote and proclaimed me a writer. The poem was about our visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts (not only a cultural institution but also a great place to play hooky where many of my friends stole their first kiss obviously in front of the Diego Rivera mural) and somehow I made a rhyme with ants. After that I wrote horrible stories in a notebook that got passed from friend to friend until the end of the week when I was forced to keep going.
I would love to say my high school, Renaissance (the ultimate college prep at the time - and I say that because we had no fun distractions like a football teams - only tennis, golf and helluva girls’ basketball team that had no following), had great teachers. In fact, I can say it but none of them made me feel as special as Miss Baily did. Actually, I made myself feel special back then out of sheer hormonal need puberic angst (I still don’t know how one can combat an unfresh perm, acne and a minimal clothes budget).
Eugene Lang College changed my life. One day, in Sekou Sundiata’s 1960s art social class, it all made sense to me. I realized that everything I learned was connected. There was no separating history from art, from social studies to math. Time, Sekou taught me, was the glue that held everything together and made everything a living organism that needed to be addressed. “Leave room for the ghost,” he told us several times. He and Kurt Lamkin were able to allow me to pull words out of the depth of my gut and make them wrap themselves around what I was thinking. Peter Wallace made realize I could stage all of this.
Sarah Lawrence was a joint educational process. Ed Allan Baker was the best playwrighting teacher around. He taught me timing, humor, appreciation for my working class roots and how that’s just as interesting as Shakespeare - Ed was the babysitter you prayed your parents would leave you with. Kevin Confoy taught me producing and imagination. To this day, his staging of Sophie Treadwell’s “Machinal” was the best I’d ever see and I still strive to capture the moment the main character, on the brink of her death sentence, shoots several feet up in the air just as the electric chair switch went down. I think of it and am breathless.
I don’t know what kids have people who teach them and leave them breathless anymore. I know I wasn’t the easiest kid to teach because I was a Know-It-All and incredibly defensive but did I have the sense of entitlement present today? I was too scared to. I knew my parents would kill me. I’m hoping there are still some of those parents out there who are able to peel through the onion layers of these crazy modern times and can reach their kids before the entitle themselves out of reality. So if you’re a teacher, hats off to you. Keep breaking the bricks of whatever this present state of chaos is we have surrounding us. If you want me to, I’ll email you everyday to remind you that you’re valued.
I might dead on news.
Though I consider myself fairly news oriented, since “Yes We Can” I’ve literally been on a downward spiral from what we now call news. I don’t think I was prepared for the wave of negativity, backlash, ridiculous grand standings, rush judgments and hypocrisy that was soon to follow a POTUS (President Of The United States for those of you not keen on brevity) that made history but then would have the same tasks most other POTUSes had before him: change the world as soon as you can or else people are going to hate you.
There are a couple of different things to remember here, that I literally forgot: 1) People expect the POTUS to have a wand that changes everything in record time 2) No one ever remembers when things sucked more than they do now 3) Desperate times call for desperate crazies and every crowd loves a crazy.
I was okay with these things except for the fact that I didn’t know the “news” would follow suit. I love blogging and silly me thought we could keep the lines bold between opinion and facts. Somehow news organizations found out that people don’t really check their own facts, despite how rampant this dang internet has become. They’ve feared us so that we believe whoever our respective TV comfy blankets are (mine happens to be Jon Stewart and Bill Maher but I know a bunch of people think Bill O’Reilly and Faux News are as cozy as white snow).
Call me crazy but I just want some good news every once in a while. That’s why POTUS had such a great rise to fame. Sure he was smart and personable but who doesn’t love a feel good story? I’ve been forced to cut and paste my news now. An NPR snippet here, a BBC shot there, a little bit from TheRoots.com and I’m almost happy to feel informed. But I have to work at it.