Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Students' lives

This week I have been reminded of the difficult, crisis-laden lives many of my students live every day.  In one of my speech classes yesterday, a student spoke on PCP addiction.  Her ethos argument was herself.  She abused PCP for six years, and is still struggling to stay clean.  At one point she just stood in front of the class, not talking.  She explained that she is a living demonstration of what PCP does to a person - it erases your mind and causes you to blank out.  It was a powerful demonstration, though not a perfect speech.

Then today a student explained his absence of last week.  One of his best friends, who was serving in Afghanistan, was killed and he attended the funeral.  Both of his brothers are serving in the military now.

Another student has some serious health issues, the main one being high blood pressure.  She is a good student, and a good writer, but without health insurance it has been difficult to maintain her health.  So she already has two absences.

I could go on and on.  Students tend to be very revealing in their essays and tell me very intimate details of their lives -- lives too often steeped in poverty.   Teaching at an open-access community college allows me to interact with students from very diverse backgrounds and ability levels, but many of them, most even, are at a community college because it's affordable.   I cherish the diversity of my students, and pray that their education will be the way out of poverty.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Downton Abbey fan

I freely admit it.  I'm a Downton Abbey fan, or maybe even a fanatic.  I simply love this PBS series.  Last night the final episode of the second season aired, and this is a spoiler alert if you have not yet watched the series. I am SO glad that Mary broke it off with Sir Richard and said "yes" to Matthew's proposal.

Why do I like the series so much?  Well, for starters, I'm an Anglophile.  My favorite novels are written by British authors about England or Ireland. This series is set in the English countryside before, during and after
World War 1.

There are so many layers to this series, and so many things I enjoy about it, but I'll just pick a few.  It's funny.  I wait for Maggie Smith, aka the Dowager Dutchess, to open her mouth, because invariably she says a funny, witty one-liner, that has both me and my husband laughing out loud.  For instance, when Sir Richard was preparing to leave and said the family wouldn't be seeing him again, Maggie Smith said with her coy, smiling, smirking wit, "Promise?"  The dialogue is also real, and engaging, and fun.

Some characters I am rooting for, like Mary, and Sybil, and Matthew; some characters I can't stand, like Sir Richard, and Thomas; some I'm ambivalent about, like Edith, and O'Brien, simply because they are a bit more complex and have both good and bad qualities (like all of us); and some I just find annoying, like Daisy.  Isn't that just like real life? 

Well, it is like real life, only it's set in a magnificent estate with dozens of rooms, and the women and men abovestairs always dress elegantly.  I enjoy seeing what Mary or Cora are wearing.

And finally, well not really, but this is enough gushing for one blog, in Downton Abbey tea is a panacea.  And I feel that way about tea myself.  While Matthew is lying in a hospital bed, just having been told he will not walk again nor father a child, Mary offers him some tea!  A cure all indeed.  When my husband is tired, or my son is sick, or I am happy, or sad, or well, or sick, a cup of tea is surely the answer!

So if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing Downton Abbey yet, I highly recommend it.  It will transport you from the 21st century, back to the early 20th century, in style.