My Journey of Life and Learning (with occasional digressions)
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HOORAY!!

Seems I may finally be progressing toward my goal of teaching. I finished up the Substitute Education and Certification required by the local school district. Yesterday I went to Orientation for another district. My email with information for my fingerprinting came about the same time I finished the orientation course and that’s a good thing.

So, I don’t know how many other folks actually go through all the slides and complete all the assignments, but I appreciate the refreshers on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Bloom’s Taxonomy. The course also touched on Glasser’s Reality Theory and Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. All good stuff, so I shouldn’t complain.

Now, if I can try to keep all that stuff somewhere up in my cranium and use it whenever I get in front of students….  Hmm…

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Substitute Teaching Packet – reflection on why I would want to substitute

So, finished my degree…got my application in to teach at a few districts in the area…and it’s right back to an online orientation course for Substitutes. Hey, no biggie. I’m used to the online thing by now. I figured I would share on my blog my answers for my reflections in that course. Hey, it worked on my degree program, why wouldn’t it work here? As always, comment away and, as always, if ya just wanna hire me, I’m here!

Series 1 asks, “Why do you want to become a substitute teacher?”

I have long desired to teach. Certain life events prevented me from actively pursuing that goal until now. Between 1998 and 2013, however, I spent the majority of time teaching military personnel of all ranks. My favorite moments as a military instructor was when I would see the “lights come on” in a student’s eyes when they understood a concept or overcame a challenge that they had with course material. I still remember quite a number of those experiences and fondly recall the joy of helping students progress.

During the periods when I was not actively working as an instructor, I had jobs that required me to perform extensive research, conduct briefings and interact with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures. From November 2013 until recently, I worked on and attained my Master of Arts degree in English. The time has finally arrived that I have the requisite education and time to pursue my life-long dream of teaching. The only question for me to consider is what level I would like to teach. I believe that spending time as a substitute teacher will allow me to experience a broad range of student behavior that will grant me the insight to wisely choose if I wish to pursue a second career educating our nation’s youth or if I wish to earn my Doctorate and work at the college and university level.

The most personal reason I have for teaching, and this stands true regardless of the student’s age, is that I firmly believe that within our nation, at this time, men are more absent from the home than they need to be. My father was frequently away, but he was home on weekends and I have very fond memories of time with my father in our home. Many youth today do not have that. I can provide an example in my classroom and be a positive influence on our students.

Celeste

I would like to make a special “shout out” to Celeste who should be checking out my website any day now.

In the crazy days we find ourselves, in the maelstrom of a bitterly contested political three ring circus, it’s vital to stop and reflect. Family and friends have diminished in importance to the degree that a simple card has become a gift. The family has become so decentralized that mountain ranges, deserts and oceans have replaced the small picket fences. Siblings who were once inseperable are now lucky if they have contact a few times a year.

Time moves ever onward. It carries us along. Our truest treasures are those rare people we meet who knew us for a span years, part ways and yet reenter our lives much later. Long after the skinned knees have healed, after the babies are born, after mutual friends have died. With bodies ravaged by time, these people come to us and we talk. We lose our current troubles, aches and pains. In our mind, we become young. Our laughter is child’s laughter. Our thoughts are young and mischievous again…

Then we part again… smiling…knowing…reassured that time’s fingers have touched us…the path has become shorter…the end is there…somewhere…our hearts are the steam engines chugging along…taking us to the inevitable last stop…

But oh so wonderful sights along the way! What splendid landscapes, raging seas, booming thunder! Carressing breezes, gentle rain, feathery snow. A new child’s laugh, a widow’s cry, a new baby’s coo. Pure, true love. Scheming, black betrayal.

But who among us does not fantasize, with closed eyes and a calm grin, of returning to the very beginning and doing it all again?

Literary Dystopias – Are We There Yet?

Oracle of DelphiBelow is the revised version of the introduction for my Master’s Thesis. Please read, respect my literary rights (don’t plagiarize), and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE provide constructive feedback. Plenty of you who will read this have your advanced degrees already. If I need to expound, shorten, condense, add, delete, say so.

Thanks!

Literary Dystopias – Are We There Yet?

Oscar Wilde asserts that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” (382). This comment prompts exploration into the complex intertwining of fact and fiction within dystopian literature. Authors utilize fears or expectations based on events contemporary at the time of writing. The realization of these fears creates positive or negative consequences which are portrayed within the work of fiction and later readers are able to compare their realities to what of the authors’ fears and expectations have actually occurred. Rob MacAlear emphasizes that the fear presented with dystopian literature must be conceivably imminent, thereby persuading the audience that urgency is needed to avoid the situation presented within the dystopia (28). By using this model, authors may create their communities, cities, or planets, portray likely impacts and the readers are then left to consider how astute the authors’ forecasts may have been considering technological or societal change, how common the authors’ expressed fears were and how that impacted developments between the date of publication and today. In many cases, Wilde’s quote about Life imitating art proves true, as Pfaelzer observed, “nineteenth-century utopists anticipated much of today’s welfare state” (“The Impact” 453) and cites such developments as social security and universal education to support that observation.

The three specific texts herein examined present an “arc” of dystopian literature from the late 19th century through the beginning of the 21st century. Anna Bowman Dodd penned The Republic of the Future when “worker riots, class, race and sex struggles were widespread and sometimes violent” (447), the Industrial Revolution was occurring, and the activists proclaimed the virtues of socialism. Aldous Huxley published Brave New World when the global community was between two world wars, trying to reconcile the nightmares presented by technology with the dreams it simultaneously offered (Diken 153). Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro, presents a view of a dystopia that exists based on technology and generational issues that are current with the present day. Medical advances, especially in the form of organ transplantation, add plausibility to Ishiguro’s piece. Isolation felt by the clones may be shared by modern readers for whom the world may have been shrunken through the internet and online discourse yet yearn for the personal contact that is being eroded through email, texting and other impersonal communications.

The narrative point of view is different in each of the novels examined and this reflects a temporal continuum concurrent with points of view and means of communication common to the time in which the authors wrote. Dodd’s novel is strictly an “outsider” affair as the omniscient narrator and protagonist writes of his adventure in a foreign land via personal letters to a friend and in this way is the most remote from the reader. In Dodd’s post-Victorian age, letters were a common means of communication, so the correspondence between Wolfgang and Hennevig would be understood to her readers. Huxley presents a modernist tale, the first paragraph contains only sentence fragments and this reflects the dominance of the mechanical over the humane which is the conflict throughout the story. The third person narrative style provides readers a glimpse into character thoughts and emotions which reflect compliance or resistance of respective characters as well as how they have been impacted by the mechanized, engineered world they share. Ishiguro presents a first person account similar to a memoir type of writing which brings readers into a feeling of sympathy and intimacy with Kathy H., the memoir’s author. By presenting his fiction as a memoir, Ishiguro removes the “aura of otherness” common to clone characters and by presenting her situation in this way, makes the story about Kathy and her compatriots and this removes the “bioethical alarm” so commonly sounded when the idea of cloning is broached in literature (Marks 333). Though Kathy and the other clones are not part of the common population, the first person view in the novel precludes viewing the clones as oddities or mere scientific creations.

Capstone Idea

So, here it is…last class of my long ride into Academia…supportive wife, kids and friends…awesome prof and classmates…I thought I had posted at least my ideas, but since I didn’t, I’ll share them now…
First, I plan to use ellipses in this post…deal with it…
I plan to explore dystopian novels…open with Oscar Wilde’s quote, “Life imitates Art much more than Art imitates Life”…consider that Art is based on the imaginary and leads to invention…by that plain logic, Imagination preceeds Creation which happens prior to
life…specific novels I will examine are Anna Bowman Dodd’s The Republic of the Future, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro…all three are excellent…
An important point I may need to address is “One person’s dystopia is another person’s utopia”…or is it?
It would seem that the elites or those possessing “true knowledge” in each novel should be in their utopia…I certainly hope to discern this and many more seeming contradictions or internal conflicts…should be fun!

Up for Air and Back Down

Somehow, I survived the Holidays, and most of Winter!

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Alright! Welcome to nobody who doesn’t read my blog. I KNOW it’s been awhile since I got on here and wrote anything. I don’t believe I even posted anything from my Studies in Shakespeare or Gender Studies class. Maybe I’ll go back, find one or two of my posts and share them here.

My bottom line on Shakespeare – I’ve always loved to read and watch his plays and I STILL really need to watch a live performance. At least by really studying, instead of just “reading for pleasure,” I feel I have a much stronger grasp of the subtleties and wordplay he so masterfully used. In my final paper, I tied Sonnets to specific scenes in a few of his plays. Seems most scholars love to go after the whole “gender” topic (which was basis for my ORIGINAL thesis, thank you James!) but that’s been severely analyzed, almost to the point of  cliche. Since I’m not usually one to “shrink” from a task and I remarked the common veins I noticed between the Sonnets and plays, with one week left in the course, I dove right in, worked my way through the paper and earned a good mark. Awesome experience all the way around. I’ll still read his stuff from time to time for fun, but now I have a whole different way of viewing it.

Gender studies – I was intimidated as hell. Only three men in the class, I was the only straight one. I guess if the whole point was to examine and see how authors and feminist philosophers can shake up the “hegemony,” all anyone would have to have done was interview me! My prof was very supportive, though, and nobody flamed me for anything – in fact all the feedback was very constructive. I learned about quite a number of very gifted authors and their works as well as some interesting philosophical views. My final paper focused on how “Offred” becomes a woman, as based on Simone de Beauvior’s writings, through her ordeal in Magaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Seems with that novel that everyone is worried about it “happening here,” especially in view of this upcoming election. Well, I saw much of the totalitarian government imposed on people in the Warsaw Pact during my Cold War time in West Germany and West Berlin. I guess, in a way, I kind of know how THAT story ends.

Then, I enjoyed my week between classes. Fifty two years old and just last Monday spent the entire day fishing entirely on my own. I always wondered about guys who did that and spoke so fondly about it. Well, I can attest that I attained a wonderful state of relaxation during the day – heck, didn’t matter to me if I even caught a fish.

Now I go into my study of WORLD LITERATURE!! Woo hoo! Hey, I really am excited! My prof seems excited to facilitate studies in the subject, which is quite a bit more than I can say of one or two profs in my recent past (ahem). But, I’m still relaxed, so I’m not going to rant (now).

First reading is by Thomas Mann, “Death in Venice.” One thing I already notice and I’m sure I’ll work into this week’s discussion somehow – Mann is German and in a footnote on page 82, mention is made to our protagonist’s name, “von Aschenbach.” The footnote claims that the “von” was reserved for nobility, which is not absolutely true. The name may be attributed to a person belonging to a family of note but nobility is NOT a prerequisite nor does anyone need to have “von” conferred upon them, though the German administrative procedure necessary to legally change a name is exhaustive and the Court would have to “grant” one the name change. More than likely, Mann could be making a swipe at Aschenbach. Historically there has always existed a regional rivalry between the predominently Catholic Bavaria and Protestant northern Germany. Mann is from Luebeck, which was a member of the Hanseatic League which was essentially a Plutocratic alliance of several European states. These merchants always held some degree of  contempt for those who were considered “nobility” by birth, though they (the merchants) were quite nepotistic themselves.

This observation is based on my three years of High School German instruction from a dear lady from Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland Palitinate), my eight months of studies at the Defense Language Institute with Frau Albrecht (eine huebsche Hamburgerin mit wunderschoene blaue Augen), Herr Doktor Professor Schulz (from somewhere in Florida) and my eight years service, speaking mostly German, in Germany. A good portion of my time was spent in Bremen, which was another member of the Hanseatic League, as was Luebeck. I was required to learn quite a bit about the history of that organization while working there. The German cities of Bremen (with its better known exclave of Bremerhaven), Hamburg, and Luebeck each still hold the title of “Free City” and have the same rights as the larger States.

Parenthood in Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”

This is another blog from Gender studies. The point was to reflect on how parenthood was shown in Margaret Atwood’s book “The Handmaid’s Tale” and compare that with our own experience as parents. The quotes and such are from the book. Enjoy!

Two of the greatest joys of my life have been my children. In The Handmaid’s Tale, I certainly identify with the description of Luke, “What I remember is Luke, with me in the hospital, standing beside my head, holding my hand, in the green gown and white mask they gave him. Oh, he said, oh Jesus, breath coming out in wonder. That night he couldn’t go to sleep at all, he said, he was so high” (126). Arthur, my son, was born first and was a breech delivery. I understand that as a male, I cannot fathom the physical aspects of delivery, but I felt so bad for Bonnie. My memories of the look on her face, though, when she first saw and held our son will never fade.  Atwood writes and I’ve often wondered about it, that “But who can remember the pain, once it’s over? All that remains of it is a shadow…” (125). One year later came Moriah, my daughter. She presented normally and both were delivered vaginally. The doctor actually let me cut the cord when she came. Since remarrying, I’ve become a grandfather (is there such a thing as a step-grandfather?) to two darling babies, Brandi and Sophia. Something I’m surprised Atwood omitted is that “new baby smell” that all infants seem to have. I don’t know if men are expected to notice it, but I do, and I love holding little ones when I get the chance. The absence of the Commanders during the birth is something I can never understand, though I know it’s common among men. Frankly, men who consider babies and child-rearing “women’s work” have always disgusted and annoyed me. I love every second with my children and grandchildren.

Shorter provides a description in the article “The Post Modern Family.” Bonnie and I were both in the military when our children were born. She was in the Reserves and I was active duty. We didn’t fully fit Shorter’s description, though he makes some valid points. Moriah and Arthur identify strongly with family, including their in-laws, have an interest in family history and genealogy, though Moriah has stronger interest in that than Arthur does. I don’t remember any real scenes of “teenage rebellion,” but we always spoke with our children and treated them like human beings with something to say. It is true that Bonnie and I divorced after 25 years, but our children were grown and in college by that time. I managed to always plan my leave dates around Bonnie’s military training and always had weekends off, which I know was rare. For socializing our children, we had close neighbors whose children were the same age as ours. We arranged more “play groups” with neighbors than baby sat for each other.

As for gender identity, the children always chose what toys to play with, we never dictated. I see the same happening with my grandchildren. Touching on my own gender identity, I’ll admit that there is a bond between a mother and child that a father can never have. De Beauvoir’s point that though “we are born male or female, we become men and women” is absolutely valid. The Commanders in The Handmaid’s Tale, and some “men” I have known, are little more than sperm donors – a concept I find abhorrent. It takes time and dedication to BECOME a father and, for me, it’s worth every second of the effort.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Anchor Books, 1998. Print.

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex.  Trans. H. M. Parshley. New York: Random House, 1993. Print.

“The post-modern family.” Internet Archive Wayback Machine. United Nations University. N.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.