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Saving the Stuff of Your Life

March 3, 2010

If you are an autoethnographer like I am—or if you think you might ever want to become one—It’s good to be a collector of ephemera. I have saved many things over the years and I mine them regularly to provide historical context for my teaching, my writing, my artmaking. My students and I have been talking recently about cliques and about the tension between allowing people to group with others they’re comfortable with and the need to help them develop the skills they need to work productively and respectfully with those who are not like them as the world grows ever more interconnected.

Silly as it might sound, students and teachers are “others” who need to work productively together. The way you treat your teachers can affect the atmosphere of the class in ways you might not expect. When we’re part of your world, you can practice your skills of working with “others” on us. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a regular person just like you, but it would be naïve for me to claim that there is no difference between teachers and students in a classroom. I know all too well that we are on opposite sides of the whole grading thing.

“Untitled Lament” is a poem I wrote in the margin of my lesson plan book during my full-day student teaching in 1988. I refound it last year as I was trying to decide if it was time to toss the planner. In my poem, I’m reminded that even teachers know sometimes that we are not part of the cool clique. That’s something for students to remember.

Untitled Lament
February 1988, South Medford High School
• W-OZ

There they are.
They won’t shut up,
those three
in the back of the room.
Snickering.
Giggling.
Looking slyly my way
from the corners of their eyes.
Waiting.
Watching.
Wondering what I will do.
And there I am.
Dressed up in my big kid clothes,
reluctantly ready
to wield the pen
that sends them to their fate
when all I want to do
is leave the room and cry
like I am twelve years old
and no one has chosen me
for their team.

My poem reminds me that everybody wants to belong and that those who might appear to be powerful might be feeling powerless.

What’s something you’re glad you saved? What does it remind you of?

I’m scared to get rid of anything. I save stuff and I don’t know why I’m saving it, but then I get rid of it and I find out I need it the next day.
• Student reiterating common wisdom, 2010

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