Friday, September 28, 2012

Do something with that anger!

Exclamation points seem to be the mood of the day these days, and the command from organizers to

Do something with that anger!

rang in my ears, as tears welled, thinking of what drives me to continue scheming and dreaming about how to bring real learning into the public school system. It was inspiring and touching to hear the tears in Greg Palast's voice, when he answered Dennis Bernstein's question yesterday:

What drives you to do what you do? He told some stories about people he knew, family, who had been harmed by reckless and greedy businesses, but what I remember is not his stories but the feeling in his voice, the tears that I could sense just from that combination of a certain timbre and intensity when one speaks through great upsurges of emotion. My friend Susan called it "puddling up" –– I'd not heard that term for the edge of tears before, and it's stuck with me. I do it almost every day, often more than once, and the triggers can be bizarre, but I think it's important to do. I want more men to cry in public, to break that macho myth that crying, grieving, lamenting, sobbing, weeping, and even the occasional bit of moaning in pain, are all verboten to the real man.

Men who wear scarves and cry in public!

Men who know nothing of football and could care less!

Part of why I so enjoy continuing to teach in the public schools as a substitute is that I get to be a role model for kids of other ways that men can be that differ a lot from the men they usually see. It feels good to be complimented on my scarves, and it's interesting that it's almost always done semi-anonymously, while I have my back to a group and will likely never know just who it was who said, "Nice scarf," or "I like your scarf." Carrying around jars of tea is also a strange, Russian Jewish/hippie thing to do, but the question is usually only "What's that?"

But we move together, doing our finger calisthenics, learning to switch hands, put the energy of the mind into parts of the body that the kids often don't even know the names of:

El meñique


The original impetus for teaching string games was that the names of the fingers, needed to teach keyboarding, were not common vocabulary even among educated Spanish-speakers, I discovered, so I used 'juegos con cuerda' to teach the finger names, and to develop the and strength dexterity to keyboard properly. It's still necessary, on both counts, more than twenty years later!

So every chance I get, I teach a string game or two, and some finger calisthenics, and the fist-pointing game, to embed the bilaterality in the body. Kids have so little chance to be ambidextrous these days, with music classes gone.

And we're back to the anger. Why do these kids not deserve the same kind of wonderful elementary school experience I had? Of course they deserve it and can handle it with ease, given the opportunity and some coaching and mentoring in pro-social behavior. That's why I keep trying...