Tea time

Stella wrote: What I wish is to sit around a kitchen table with a small group of women, drinking tea, and have long discussions about just such things as you’ve posted about – I miss that so much – I suppose blog/comments exchanges are the next best thing.

Oh, that sounds so lovely. I think that’s what I like about blogging, the conversations that sometimes happen spontaneously over an idea thought through in a post. These days, though, I’m feeling guilty because I’ve hardly had a chance to read my favorite blogs. I drop in, then think I’ll come back and comment, and I don’t. I’ve been rushing, with a particularly busy quarter at work, and the Monologues (0ver now), and just trying to keep up with life.

I’m brain dead. This is one of those posts that says nothing, does nothing except give a glimpse into my life. I caught up on the laundry today, for the first time in weeks. I’ve been living out of piles of clothes tossed on the bed and then into the basket which is wedged in the corner, and then back onto the bed. The floor has been covered in dog hair and dust and tracked in mud. My car has been a disaster area. But yesterday I cleaned the car, and today I got a good run at the house, and tomorrow is a day I have to settle in and get caught up at work. I have a reference letter to write for a student, a college application paper to read for another student, the rest of my syllabus for Victorian and 20th Century lit to finish, an exam to write, and a report to write for the English department. And I have to finish reading the Virginia Woolf essays I assigned for this week, which I haven’t read since the last time I taught the class, something like 10 years ago.

And I’m tired after the energy expended on rehearsing for and performing in the Monologues. But I’ve managed to blog fairly regularly despite this difficult quarter, and doing so was one of my goals, so I’m happy.

Oh, and Stella’s comment reminded me of where I went to undergraduate school, an alternative hippie college without grades, where we studied in programs instead of individual classes, and learning was very much a time of talking over tea, of deep discussions in seminars, and then in individual cluster contracts, and because there were no grades, we never had to jump through hoops (at least, it never felt like it). I remember my first visit to the campus, when I walked into the women’s restroom and eavesdropped on a conversation about Dada and Nietzsche and war and nihilism, and thought, “This is it! This is where I’m going.” I was used to the loos in the community college I’d been attending: “Hey, are you going to so-and-so’s party tonight? God, I got so wasted last night. And did you hear, Dingbat’s pregnant again.” I wanted real conversations, literature, art, philosophy. I wanted to grapple with difficult ideas, to argue, to disagree and discover. And my undergraduate college gave me all that — and then some.

This post is going nowhere, and it’s OK. I’m not going to edit or shape it or press it into respectability. I do not wish to be respectable. I am thinking of confession again, and of my discomfort with it, of how hard it was to audition for the Monologues. (It took me seven years). I am thinking of how frustrated I am that Zeke gets away with texting in class in high school, and with doing math homework in global perspectives and global perspectives homework in choir. I am thinking of how I could NEVER be a high school teacher, because I would do inappropriate things like kick my students out of class if I caught them being so disrespectful. Yet I would feel continual nagging guilt as I watched them walk out: If I am not keeping their attention, their absence of interest is a failing in me rather than them.

One of my colleagues lets the students surf when they’re in the lab and she’s talking. I was observing her and the tic-tic of the keyboard, the click-click of the mouse, the flashes in my peripheral vision as a new website loaded — these all drove me nuts. I was distracted the whole class. “If I’m not holding their attention,” she said, “then that’s my problem.” But how can we? Really? They’re used to texting and talking and keyboarding and iPoding all at the same time. Their attention flicks from TV to computer to PDA to iPhone. They pull white earbuds out of one ear to respond to a parent’s question. Am I old-fashioned to insist on them turning off the technology and looking forward to the doc-cam where we are discussing the strengths of a student paper? Am I old-fashioned to insist on respect for each other? Not just me. Each other. Surely doing six different things at once is disrespectful. It is the opposite of sitting down at tea, and looking at each other, and really listening.

5 responses to “Tea time

  1. (It was wonderful, wasn’t it? We’d talk all night, Austen & Tolstoy & William James & Kierkegaard.)

    It’s simply disastrous to spread your attention as thin as your wired & earbudded students. I think it’s wonderful to make them turn it all off and experience a rhythm other than the frenetic and over-stimulated. Even if they hate it, they should at least know it’s there, it’s possible :->

  2. (Oh you make me schoolsick. I want to be back there. Yes. All night. And running through the woods to the nude beach. And the mist in the mornings, rising. And so many ideas lifting and diffusing and spreading through me.)

    I’m afraid I’m getting old, refusing to recognize a new and simply different way of being in my students. I can’t help but think it’s dangerous in some way — the wired-ness, the lack of quiet. But every generation has its differences with the one that went before. I try to be open to the possibility that this wired generation is just the new way of being — and OK. But I don’t see it. I just don’t.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more! These young folks are wired up and plugged in but increasingly disconnected on many, many levels. Look at the shocking numbers of people with depression; it’s at epidemic proportions worldwide and growing.There’s a correlation there, I’m convinced of it. Our bodies are physically the same as they were back when we were running around on the savannah, and our environment has evolved at warp speed in a bazillion directions. We are way out of balance.

  4. Thanks for visiting, Lilwen. I too am horrified at the numbers of people who suffer from depression. We should be outside, active, eating natural food, and we are not. I don’t know where it’s going to end up. I guess we just keep stepping forward, trying to find balance in our own individual lives.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this “ordinary life” post. Maybe they are enjoyable because they give us a glimpse into the daily lives of these bloggers with whom we have no “real-life” contact.
    As for the “wired” kids — that’s fine that it exists. However, it absolutely would not happen at my dinner table, nor in my classroom (if I had any say about it).
    I once put some seemingly outrageous limits on the behavior of a young teen daughter of a friend of mine who was at my house and later informed the mother, fearing either the daughter would hate me or her mother would. Turned out my house was the daughter’s favorite place — just because I offered the control and structure (and real connection) she wasn’t given elsewhere. Her mother let her do whatever she wanted. I did not.
    And….where’s that “hippie college”? –smile–
    Stella

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