Within my classroom, I attempt to introduce to the students many different approaches to literature (heck, to life!) through the incorporation of critical theory. Each of these varied literary approaches takes the students outside of their own self-involved paradigms and challenges them to look at a piece of literature, art, and their own identities with a different pair of eyes. Inevitably, they will return to their own respective perspectives but with a better understanding of how their viewpoints were formed and how they might be limited.
Furthermore, I also attempt to subvert the teacher/student dichotomy by making that distinction hazy as I often switch with the students where they are the teacher and I the student or where we are all students. This is an arduous endeavor as the entire institution of education seems to be based upon the student/teacher juxtaposition; however, that separation undermines an environment where a passion for Beauty and Truth can be shared–COMPASSION!
When I look into the eyes of each of my students, I see infinite potential, infinite curiosity, the infinite capacity to create something new that would inspire the rest of humanity to look within its collective self and to find and embrace its human spirit, the metaphysical entity that is our true identity and our intimate connection to the rest of humanity as well as to the Divine. This human spirit is a precious resource that must remain unsullied by the disease-ridden hands of society. For some of us who are older, we have already sacrificed our spirit, our identity, for the purpose of fulfilling social expectations. On the other hand, our young people, although occasionally injured by social injustice and personal traumas, still retain their virtuosity, their ability to find their true selves, their drive to express themselves in ways that are new and innovative, enriching society with this creativity.
Favorite memory: Every Halloween for 8 years, I had the opportunity to see East Bakersfield High School students express compassion towards a group people who are constantly pushed aside by our society -- the special needs community. As a member of the planning team for the MOVE Halloween Bash at East High, I partnered with the student volunteers to make sure that this was not just a frivolous social engagement where students and teachers could hang out and have a good time and be fed pretty decent pizza and ice cream; it was an exhibition of compassion as the students opened their arms and gave this marginalized community a warm and loving embrace. Being a part of this phenomenon left me not proud, but inspired, truly, truly inspired.