Student: “Miss–you The Plug.”
Me: “If people can’t see that by now, I don’t know what to tell them.”
Student: “Torres already told you she does not play.”
Me: “You already know.”
[hilarity and laughter ensues]
I live my life in service to other people. I am so grateful for this, because no matter what, at the end of every day, I can say that I’ve made someone else’s life better and/or easier simply by virtue of what I do for a living. I can think of no better way to spend the days, weeks, months, and years of my life. Ever since that first lesson I taught in 2005, I have never regretted the choice to become a teacher. With that said, I proudly accept the title of “The Plug”.
If I am “The Plug”, that means I need to electrify.
If I am “The Plug”, I need to hook people up with power.
If I am “The Plug”, my job is to connect people to resources they need.
It might be a silly nickname the kids bestowed upon me, but it fits. I accept it.
“The Plug” electrifies…
This week, we discussed poetry as public art form. Students read “Unknown Citizen” WH Auden, “Sterling Williams’ Nosebleed” David Chin, “Girl” Jamaica Kincaid, “Half-Mexican” Juan Felipe Herrara. I can’t say that people were exactly “electrified”, but interest was definitely piqued. People really reacted to the questions in “Unknown Citizen”.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
At the end of the day, these are the questions we always need to consider. What freedoms do we willingly give up for the promise of happiness–even if deep inside, we know it will be fleeting?
From “Sterling Williams…” students observed that the poem used repetition in a way similar to the old days when one was bad in school and had to write, “I will not…..” over and over again on the chalk board. My female students really gravitated toward the restrictions placed upon the protagonist in “Girl” which I like teaching as poetry because of the poetic elements. My favorite poem of these though, Half-Mexican, really threw people for a loop. They knew they liked it because of the title. Many of my students are Mexican. They joked that if you can tell somebody Mexican by whether they’ve seen Apocalypto or not, which I found quite hilarious. By their account, if you’ve seen it, you’re Mexican. I accept this.
At first, people had no idea what to do with this poem, then the energy in the room shifted a bit when we started asking questions and digging deeper into the poem to understand the connection between Indigenous people, colonized people, and Mexican people of the diaspora. I could tell that there were more questions than answers, as students wrestled with form hidden imagery, and figurative language. I consider this to be a good thing. I really try to stay away from giving interpretations of poems, so instead, we have a quick protocol that we use:
TPFASST – Title (1st reading), Paraphrase, Figurative Language, Attitude (tone), Syntax, Shift, Tone.
From there, we talk about the antecedent scenario, problematic vocabulary, dramatic situation, essential question (poetry is the answer, minus the question), and any dominant style device that stands out.
These processes allow folks to struggle a bit, but in the end, they are lit up with a preliminary understanding of a poem from which they can branch out and explore through seminars, discussion posts, etc. I’ve found these protocols to be effective and quick ways to ignite the spark of comprehension. I really didn’t have to do much other than provide some background knowledge about Einstein, Kant, and Indigenous symbolism/Aztec and Mayan mythology and rituals. As we make meaning together, as a class, I find providing just a little bit goes a long way.
“The Plug” empowers…
This week, I got an amazing opportunity to have my students design a social-media campaign for a non-profit that offers micro-loans to women in Uganda and Rwanda. If we are successful, we’ll be able to launch the campaign at the end of this school year. My students will be empowered by this service learning opportunity, because they will see their efforts generate support for women half a world away. These women will be empowered because they will own their own lives. In so many ways, they will have more than your average US citizen.
“The Plug” hooks people up…
This week, the collaborations have been electric. So many people have reached out with both offers and requests to join their energies and talents with mine in the service of something greater–our kids. I always say we are a web of interconnectedness and that we are so much stronger, and better together. It’s true. It is such an honor to be able to work with other educators on exciting projects that make our world better by enriching the lives of our young people. So, for all the people I’ve connected to one another, and to all those who have been connected or connected themselves to me, thank you. Thank you for extending a hand. Thank you for donating time, sending books, co-planning with me, inviting me to your school(s) to share my message with your community, for supporting my work–for being my plug(s)–for charging up my heart.