Category Archives: Theories

Si yo pudiera…

If I could run these language courses in a way that would work for me and the students, I would:

1/ Walk in with review and warm-up questions (5 minutes)

2/ Go over homework (5 minutes)

3/ Have a short quiz (5 minutes)

4/ Introduce a new reading / vocabulary theme / grammatical structure (depending on the day) (15 minutes, including showing audio, video, images)

5/ Explain #4 after having immersed students in it and engaged them with it (5 minutes)

6/ Do some easy exercises with this new material (10 minutes)

7/ Assign some more complex exercises as homework, make announcements, wrap up (5 minutes)

What do you think? And — why is it that I cannot do anything this rational? Can I find a way to do it, in the current situation?



Filed under Questions, Theories, What Is A Scholar?, Working


Do you think blogs are over? Some of the ones that existed when I started in 2006, are still going, but many of those I used to read are gone — and so many have become so quasi-professional, so official. I have thought of stopping sometimes, but really what I would like is to get back to posting every day.

This was a poetry blog that became a therapeutic and political blog, and then an academic one. Mostly, though, it is therapeutic. I started seeking therapy for what I later learned was a form of child abuse when I was 17. I had thought about it before, obviously, but not been in a position to seek.

About ten years after that I had a psychoanalyst in Brazil — that is to say, I interviewed one, tried her out, before deciding that cultural differences and extreme Freudianism meant she was not the one for me. I did tell her, though, that I had worked hard as a child, knowing I was liable to pick up traits from each parent, to discern which traits of each I wanted to emulate and which I must avoid absorbing if I wished to survive.

She said, what about thinking less about other people you might want to resemble, and more about resembling yourself? I said I was doing that in daily life, but also wanted to understand who and what I was also imitating, so as to cast off some patterns that were inhibiting my doing what she recommended.

I was thinking about this now. More and more I can see what I imitated, it is endless. But it does not really deeper analysis than it has had, and now is the time to take up the Brazilian analyst’s advice. That is the reason I am nostalgic for northern California now, the place where I was doing that earlier in life, before I had even met that analyst.

One of my students says that the typical Louisiana woman is entangled in an extended family and with a boyfriend or husband who also limits her, and does not know what she wants to do. I realized: that was the person Reeducation wanted me to be, or to become.



Filed under Theories

Des signes

About this post, from over two weeks ago: it is difficult for me to recognize mistreatment. But my reaction to is a kind of hallucination: I jump to thinking that if I can only calm my mother down and placate her, the pain will stop and I will be released from my cage.

This indicates that if I have that reaction, someone has acted in a very low fashion and wants to me to think it is my fault — and I should try to see what has happened rather than think I am just flashing back randomly.


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Filed under Banes, Theories

Goddesses of Suicide

A. I just wrapped a 6th form course at Campion College on critical thinking, and one of the biggest challenges the kids are facing is being funnelled into careers they have no interest in because their parents insist that they need to undertake those professions to make money. The implicit message is that you should live a life you loathe in order to buy things that will make up for hating what you do every day. How did we get here? When I point out that success comes in many forms — like the power couple of science teaching Kippy and Jeannie Chin who are responsible for educating something like 90 per cent of the doctors in Jamaica today, or Principal Grace Baston who integrated Campion and made it available to a broader spectrum of Jamaican society — many give me confused looks. Let’s not kid ourselves, money — which has always been important — has now become the only standard of value. Capitalism, which started out as an economic system, one which told us how to organise labour and capital, has now surreptitiously morphed into a value system telling us now what constitutes the good life.

B. When I told my parents that I wanted to study philosophy and religion in college, they were simply thrilled that I wanted to be erudite and educated. No one ever asked what I would do with that. I shudder to think of how today’s parents would have ushered me off to law school to become another bored and alienated lawyer. Suicide may have loomed larger for me if I had to live a life which was not my choosing. How do you see the suicides where mothers leave young children behind, or the pilot who takes 150 passengers with him? Is that darkness somehow different than the “ordinary” suicide?

A. [O]ne of the most undiagnosed forms of child abuse in our societies is unleashed by parents who place these burdens on their children. If we really want to have a real conversation about alienation, depression and suicide then let’s talk about parents who bring children into the world and then charge them for it. To be birthed and then expected to justify your existence, first to your parents, by being a financially commoditised object is pure evil! So, parents need to start by allowing their children the freedom to fail, pick themselves up, and then even fail again, and to honour the unique talents their children have and not put them through the psychological equivalent of Chinese foot-binding.

Read the whole thing.


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“El secreto está en dejarse la vida en ello”

That is the writing advice given by a journalist in this schlocky film. It is very different from the advice about forcing yourself with alarm clocks while holding it all back in a combination of anti-perfectionism (anything is good enough) and decorum (say something that will be confirm the convictions of the editors) that the professors give.


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Filed under Banes, Theories

On close reading

Close reading shapes how I teach in decisive ways. In order to help students find topics about which to write, I let them read texts closely. Not only do I teach the critical thinking skills discussed above, all of which rely on close reading, but students practise these skills regularly. Before most class meetings, students read at least one new text. I guide their reading in the form of worksheets uploaded to the IVLE workbin two to three days before class. Each sheet provides a clear outline of the aims and objectives for the class concerned, and situates the class in terms of the module while providing context to the readings for the day. The sheet further poses questions concerning the reading and requires students to pose their own questions on it. Thus students are constantly required to engage closely with the texts they read and justify their reading of the texts. This forms the basis of all class meetings, which in turn are linked to their paper assignments. Close reading of sources (whether texts or real-world phenomena being studied) is thus fundamental to my teaching. It serves not only to equip students with the ability to observe closely and ask critical questions, but to produce well-crafted and persuasively argued essays. Far from fetishising close reading, this is merely an acknowledgement of its centrality in the process of independent inquiry.

Here is the entire article. I am not always up on everything and it has come to my attention that close reading went out of fashion as “elitist” and is now coming back in. This is how I should teach the introduction to literature, but I might also want to have creative projects. Perhaps ONE creative project. I used to not believe in these, for various reasons I am sure you can guess at (ask if you are not sure), but I am starting to wonder whether they might not be a good idea.


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Filed under Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

The disintegration of the university

“There is no community, but there are still gangs,” someone said.



Filed under Theories