back to the chalkboard

Backbending. Backwards. Backbiten. Backfired.

None of these; not even a back and forth pin the backwater I’m paddling in. Instead, it’s a backbone. It’s my own spinal column up against a thought:

I know, thinking about the classroom as an open field is a bit forbidden – what with objectives, a call for more standardization, a real inquiry about the “state of education,” and an authentic fear that the theory-driven teaching (totally guilty of it) lacks structure – but it’s important.

“It” needs stretching to make this thought: It’s important to create classrooms that examine Wittgenstein’s “Whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent.” We have limits hanging over our heads and we have to speculate into, between, and beyond those limits. Isn’t this seeking education? Isn’t this seeking more important than a perfectly placed comma because it asks, instead, for a comma that’s placed with intention and purpose? I’d rather see a comma that shows choice making than one that shows standardization; I’d rather that, when one cannot speak, he dances.

Obviously, my own skyline thinks clarity is out of the question anyway…certainty is even less out.

Today, out my own window, a boy says “gotten” over and over again: “I’ve gotten bit. Gotten bit.” He’s laughing. It’s a bacchanalian language, not a perfect one. 

This is the back and forth: do we innovate within the systems or do we innovate because we create new systems?

I feel this in poetics too. I feel this when I say, “Yes a form and shape!” And the shape is a love-in where the staying within, the game of playing in the lines, is sportive. But I feel the same wild and licentious feeling when there’s shapelessness.

I feel this when my mentor and friend emails me and says something about an imperfect tense that isn’t entirely clear to me – isn’t even something I’d notice if he didn’t point it out, but because he pointed it out I start to look for it and feel beaten by the strength of arguing for clear and certain communication. But the thing we’ve both read is something I understood, felt, and cared about; the thing we both read had thoughts that I had flings with and now the scruff is pointed out, but I’m still pretty weak, weak enough to keep coming back to the thoughts and totally forgetting about the tense.

Is it weird that I don’t care about the tense? Is it weird that, even after he shows me the failings, I still don’t care and I argue that chronology isn’t as important to me as it is to him. 

I go back (theme huh?) to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and think about time, gender, and location shifting. It was one of the first books I read that made intuitive sense to me…sense because it loosened the discomfort of “fitting” into syntax and shows the real hinterlands of how it works to try and work out ideas and stories. 

So I’m going back to the classroom with this woodsy feeling of really wanting to give students authentic tools to “make it” and really feeling an apologetic concern that boorish language isn’t so turned and rotten as writing and thinking that doesn’t push. 


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