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Learning at its Best

Blindly Hacking Away

One thing I didn’t expect about writing fiction is that I would connect personally with what I had written. I imagined myself as detached – a sort of first person omniscienct in a story of my creation. However, I’ve found myself going back to a couple of paragraphs I wrote in my novel Drawn Into Danger: Snapshots of a Superhero in Training. I might be breaking with Cooperative Catalyst style here by posting something fiction, especially a YA novel about a superhero.  But for me, it pointed to my own experience as a “Gifted” student (an implied superhero metaphor), the pressure I felt daily and why the system seemed to breed a climate of darkness despite the caring adults who taught us each day:

The first item I try on is the standard uniform. I hold out the orange tights and blue cape. Can’t they at least choose black? I heard somewhere that black hides the fat a little easier. No one ever uses that word fat. They’ll say hefty or chunky or big or whatever, but fat kids can see past the language. I’m fat. I’m not sure why. I play sports and I eat pretty much what I’m supposed to eat, but I’m still chunky. See, I did it there. Chunky instead of fat.

If you’re a boy and you’re fat, they make fun of you. Even friends have the permission to call you gordo and make comments about your jiggling celluloid and all the while you’re supposed to smile and laugh and perhaps even tell the same kinds of jokes about yourself to show people that you’re cool with that, because if you ever said, “Hey guys, that really hurts,” you’d be bludgeoned with a heavy pipe and left for dead next to the dumpster.

School is not the kind of place where you can just exist and blend in, even if you’re in the Invisible Middle Zone Tribe.

Imagine a place where everyone is blindfolded and carrying machetes and they’re all convinced that there’s a battle going on because they’re surrounded by what they believe are zombies with knives and it’s simply one another, each person scared and hacking away with these heavy knives, convinced that he or she is the only one who feels any pain. That’s middle school right there. The scariest part of it is the sense of loneliness in all of the pain. It’s like no one has any idea that everyone else is just as scared or hurting or whatever it is that makes us hold onto our machetes so tightly.

I wonder if anyone else knows that we’re all hurting and that when we choose not to learn about negative integers and we say it’s not personal, what we mean is it’s not the teacher’s fault. But it is personal. It’s so personal that we can’t even make sense out of it ourselves.

We’re just paralyzed by the game. We’re all at the bottom of the dog pile and none of us has the ability to get up fast enough and the sad part is that the hands that we can’t even notice the hands trying to help us off, because we’re obsessed with taking possession of something so elusive.

We’re all just tired and scared and lonely and if you’re fat or you have zits or you didn’t get invited to that party, well it can feel like the Apocalypse and what’s the point in doing a book review if the world is ending anyway?

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About John T. Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Blindly Hacking Away

  1. John, All portraits of others are portraits of ourselves? This is the lesson of the imagination? Thank you for sharing this.

    Kirsten

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | March 7, 2011, 11:01 pm
    • It’s like what one of my F2F colleagues helped me understand: what you don’t like in others is what you don’t like about yourself. Kind of gives new urgency to taking real accountability for taking care of ourselves and our students.
      C

      Posted by Chad Sansing | March 8, 2011, 7:26 am

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