Author: Tom Panarese

My continuing troubled relationship with poetry


“A Sober Poetry Reading at Brickbat 09” by Jeremy Tenenbaum. Used under CC license.

April is National Poetry Month.  The only significance to this post is that I remembered that last night and found myself falling down one of my favorite YouTube rabbit holes–spoken word poetry.  Otherwise, that’s about it.

Okay, not entirely.  After finally shutting my computer down, I picked up my notebook and began scribbling some verse, which is something I don’t do very often.  I consciously stopped writing poems in college when I realized that I was really aping my professor’s style so I’d get an A and even then, the poetry wasn’t particularly great.  But I will admit that every once in a while, I jam one out in the notebook because it’s a way for me to write something personal that isn’t about pop culture or isn’t about teaching.  It’s also nothing that will see the light of day unless you bug me enough (although funny enough, I threw one into an “anonymous poetry” assignment last December, so my 10 advanced class read one of my poems aloud without knowing it).  And I will admit that watching poetry being read or recited makes me want to get behind a mic and do it, although then I realize that despite my current job I have a low threshold for embarrassment.

Anyway, the other reason that I had been finding it hard to write poetry (and honestly some more personal types of essays while we’re at it) is that when I look at the poetry I have written over the now many years, I see that many of my topics were well-suited to someone who is in their formative years and not on the brink of middle age.  Granted, I probably have the maturity of a 15-year-old at times (and some of the people in my life have seen me demonstrate this in spades), but writing poetry about having crushes on girls when you’re 39 is kind of weird.  However, I don’t know how ready I am to go down the road of saying that the woods are lovely, dark, and deep and all that.

At a glance, poetry really seems to fit those who are young or those who are old because they either have the fire and passion that comes with inexperience or they have the flicker of a long-used candle.  And I never actually thought that there would be a point where I felt that I had lost my voice.  I mean, despite all of the business and stress in my life, I still find time to write and some of those blog entries and podcast episodes get personal, but even then it’s personal reflection within the context of nostalgia.  So I’m not actually getting personal so much as sharing personal memories.

I’ve tried to remedy some of this by finding inspiration in reading a variety of poetry.  I enjoy the passion and the idealism found in a Brave New Voices or Button Poetry video, but I also enjoy the simplicity and wit found in a poem by Billy Collins or Ted Kooser.  Still, I don’t know if anyone one will find it inspiring or even interesting if I wrote about a life of suburban domestication.  Do these lines inspire you?:

I make sure to wash my hands
after pouring bleach
into the washing machine.
This is my favorite T-shirt
and I don’t want to ruin it.

Yeah, not exactly.

All this, however, begs the question with which I am going to close this post.  Does poetry … does writing have to come from a source that appears “interesting”?  Can the mudane, the everyday be inspiring?  Have thousands of “writer types” in undergrad and MFA progams who flock to readings with the pretense of “being deep” ruined the act of writing for those who don’t fit their mold?

Maybe I’ll write about that.

Can Sci-Fi and Horror Save High School English?


“IT’S A COOKBOOK!!!” An image from the Twilight Zone adaptation of “To Serve Man.”

A flying saucer lands on Earth and the alien race the Kanamit bring world peace and turn Earth into a paradise.  But they have a hidden agenda and it’s all contained in a book entitled, “To Serve Man.”

Little Anthony Freemont has psychic powers and uses them to make everyone who crosses him go away … or even worse.  People just have to constantly believe that “It’s a Good Life!”

Our narrator gets a call to get his snowplow truck out and along the way picks up a hitchhiker who initiates a conversation about a serial killer on the loose who has been killing hitchhikers.  He does this “Time and Again.”

A mysterious man who has been living alone in a castle for as long as he can remember decides to break free in search of human contact and light.  He is “The Outsider.”

George Hadley and his wife live in the perfect customized, automated home of the future.  Their children spend their time in a virtual reality room called “the nursery” and are very attached to it.  George thinks that they might be too attached to “The Veldt.”

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea that what I just listed are short summaries of science fiction and horror short stories, each with a plot that has its fair share of twists and turns, sometimes even waiting until the end to reveal that twist.  They’re also stories I have either used or considered using in my English classes.

A couple of months ago, as part of the work I’m doing for my adolescent literacy class, I gave two of my classes an interest survey that asked them about when they read, how often they read, and what they read, as well as what types of movies and television shows they like to watch.  You’d think that by January I would have known this by now, but aside from talking about superhero movies and the occasional blockbuster that most of us have seen or heard of, my students seem to talk more about what they’ve seen from friends on Snapchat lately than anything they happen to be watching or what video game they were playing.

When we did get a conversation going about television or movies, the subject would often turn to science fiction or horror, especially horror.  A number of them watched Stranger Things last fall (as did I) and a few had started watching it.  Many of them had seen the Purge films, and lately have been recommending Get Out (which I think my wife and I plan on seeing once we have a child-free night).  The survey results reflected that–teenagers like horror.

And everyone who was a teenager between 1979 and now just went “Uh … DUH.”

Now, I’ll confess that I’m not a horror aficionado, but I do like a good scary movie from time to time and I’ve seen all of the classics of my youth:  Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th as well as straight-up classics like Night of the Living Dead.  I think I’d also put Psycho in that box, although I can’t tell if that’s a suspense flick or horror.  Anyway, there’s something that’s been universal about being a teenager and plunking down your hard-earned lawn-mowing money to see whatever splatter-fest is in the theater.  To a lesser extent the same can be said for science fiction, as in some cases you’ve got your blockbuster sci-fic/fantasy/action movie (Star Wars, for instance) that a large number of students will go see, but not all of them will sit down and watch 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gravity, or some other “hard” science fiction.

Anyway, that led me to ask why there isn’t more sci-fi and horror on my curriculum.

There’s definitely some dystopian sci-fi; specifically, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which I personally think is even more relevant in 2017 than it was in 1951 and not just because of the politics contained within (seriously, go reread it and tell me that it’s not a tech nightmare).  But beyond that, I didn’t have much, and when I took a course in YA lit last semester, we read a little sci-fi but completely skipped over horror, to the point where I wondered aloud why we weren’t really touching on the genre.  Oh wait … there’s Poe.  But Poe is well-covered territory in English classes other than mine, so with the exception of the poem “To Helen,” I don’t really touch the guy.  Frankenstein is taught in the twelfth grade course (in fact, when I taught twelfth grade, we read it), and Dracula is another text that is more AP-level.  And Stephen King I’d reserve for options on independent reading because of the pearl clutching that tends to go on during the more dirty parts of The Catcher in the Rye.

As a way to find whole-class reads in the science fiction/horror stable, I started looking for short stories, novels, or stand-alone excerpts from novels.  I tried to find things that were contemporary and found some great stuff (“Patient Zero” by Tanarive Due is freaking amazing), but as I kept looking, the stuff I found was either too sexually explicit or was way too above their level.  So I went to a place where I, as a teenager, found some great science fiction stories:  The Twilight Zone.

I asked “What Zone episodes were adaptations of short stories?”  After all, it seemed to work for “Lamb to the Slaughter” and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. That’s where I found, at a first glance, “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby and “To Serve Man” by Damon Knight.  And I know that what I did was a classic “read the story”/”watch the movie” bit, but it worked pretty well–the class found those stories to be “creepy” or “weird” and liked the twist at the end of “To Serve Man.”  They were able to handle the black and white of those old TV episodes and we even watched the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of The Simpsons  (the one based on “It’s a Good Life” also features adaptations of “The Monkey’s Paw” and Frankenstein and has one of the best lines of the show–“Dammit, Smithers, this isn’t rocket science; it’s brain surgery!”).  And I have been slowly compiling stories that I may or may not use, plus looking into a couple of novels that might be worth it, including The War of the Worlds (which I have to reread anyway).

But, after 1000 words already, I don’t think I’ve really addressed my topic or thesis or whatever I’m supposed to be calling it (people stopped reading long ago anyway), which is why science fiction and horror are good genres besides their being in my students’ wheelhouse.  Well, if you look at even the laziest-written sci-fi/horror, you’ll see a host of literary devices: allegory, symbolism, metaphor, and universal themes about humanity and human nature.  You can even use them as mentor texts for descriptive writing, like I did with the first chapter of Peter Benchley’s Jaws (h/t to my father, who used to read it aloud to his marine biology class while playing the John Williams music).

None of these strategies, by the way, are anything new, but I think that when English teachers think like English teachers, we have a tendency to think that any short story used in class has to have “literary merit.”  Many of us have been moving away from this mentality in recent years, but I think that it lingers in the back of our minds, especially because so many of us love literature.  But science fiction and horror, with some few exceptions, has been marginalized for decades and never been raised to the level of “literary,” just as sci-fi/horror films rarely, if ever, win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  Yet some of the best discussions I’ve ever had, especially ones that border on philosophical, have come when talking about the consequences of actions in the context of a sci-fi/horror plot.

So as you’re planning for the next semester or year, dive into the realm of scary or weird.  Try out some short stories.  Find some old episodes of The Twilight Zone (which is streaming in various places), The Outer Limits, or even Star Trek (I kinda want to show “The City on the Edge of Forever” but need to build a lesson plan first).  Grab some old pre-code sci-fi/horror comics (you’d be surprised how many tackle important issues, such as prejudice), or simply start a conversation about horror movies in class and see what happens.  You might find it to be more engaging than A Doll’s House.

Oh, btw, there is a twist ending to this post.  High school English doesn’t need saving.  I just put that title there so people would read it.

This has been bad twist ending theater.  Good night.

I Hear Your Voice, But Your Argument is Wrong

04 - Hack your high school

Prompt by John Spencer.

Next month, my advanced English class will take on their annual research project. In the past, we’ve had debates on issues important to them or they have researched the history behind a famous photograph, but last year (and this year), I have changed things up and started things off with a visual prompt that I swiped from John Spencer: Hack Your High School. List five things you could change about your school. We begin by listing what they came up with and then have an open discussion about it before moving on to the actual project.

That project is a collaborative presentation. A group chooses a topic, identifies the problem, and generates a viable solution. The research comes as part of finding proof of the problem and testing that solution’s viability, something that I emphasize in a brief lecture on how problem/solution presentation works: you have to not only identify the problem, but its cause, see who has the power to change things, and not only come up with a solution but consider as many logistical or cultural issues that may arise during the implementation process. I also note that one of my biggest pet peeves was people who either complain for the sake of complaining or offer a solution that is nothing more than a platitude or wishful thinking.

The presentations are graded on content as well as aesthetic. After all, good information can fall completely flat or get ignored when the audience is bored out of its skull (all teachers have experience with this). I give some recommendations–make sure that you and not the slide are the focus of the presentation, don’t just stand in front of the class and read bullet points, and make sure your slides can be and you can be heard from the back of the room. From there, I said they can do whatever they wanted, but with the knowledge that I would be asking questions after every presentation (and if all goes well this year, I might have an administrator or other teacher to make comments as well). We’ve been in the class together for 3/4ths of the year so far, so that last item is not to be taken lightly and they know it.

Last year’s presentations were solid and there was some real enthusiasm throughout the class, and I am hoping for some of the same this year. In looking back, though, I know that I need to work with my class on creating a polished presentation as well as refining some of their arguemnts. Still, in my first shot at this last year, I was impressed by a few things and have really come to see the benefit of a project like this.

1. Students gain an understanding of logistics. Last year, among the popular topics was being able to customize one’s class schedule more as well as more funding for the arts and non-sports activities, better school lunches, and solving our growing overcrowding problem. When offering solutions, many groups knew what could or should be done, but had a hard time working through logistical or financial roadblocks. It seemed that one solution put in place caused another problem or that “doing more with less” was not always easy. Some were frustrated; some saw a pathway via incremental solutions instead of focusing on the big picture.

2. Students want to be proud of their school. The idea behind this project is not “This place sucks. How do we fix it?” It’s more of trying to optimize what is provided for us and improving things for the future. A few students tackled issues such as sanitation and building construction and I specifically wanted them to come up with solutions that didn’t involve knocking the building down and starting over. In other words: can you work within the existing system to enact the change that will benefit you and future students?

To say that a place is terrible or a system is broken without really analyzing the hows and whys is a nice political tactic that will get you noticed (or even elected) but is ultimately a cop-out. Thinking within the system forces the class to thinkin more thoroughly about the school and their place in it. While some fo my class’s arguments last year came from a place of frustration, there wasn’t much throwing up of hands. In fact, a number of them genuinely wanted to improve the place and tried to find a way to focus their energy for the better.

3. The research is more solid. It shouldn’t be assumed that for a project like this, there is going to be more quality of research, but when I did this last year, there was. And I am not going to fling edubabble like ownership of learning or authentic audience at you. What I will say is that I think the research was better because as they looked at their topics, students narrowed them down to a specific process, and a specific process that is very common–after all, problem/solution was the process for just about every business proposal I ever helped write during my marketing days–and the topics were very localized. Getting the information needed could not all be done online. Some students had to interview teachers and administrators as well as students and many did field research of sorts by taking pictures. This provided more thorough information and actually made for better presentations.

4. Student voice is not all for one, one for all. Having been a publications adviser, I am a strong advocate for students having a voice. But I have found an odd sense of elitism within the #stuvoice conversations I have seen. Then again, I apparently misinterpreted the purpose of #stuvoice years ago when I wondered if they stood for everyone.

So the problem is obviously me.

Anyway, when some of the issues that my students were concerned about were brought up in a whole-class discussion last year, especially when it came to things like schduling, a number of students seemed tob e very dismissive of those who they perceived as “less than.” In fact, I actually wound up stepping in at one point and saying that they may not think that the students who, according to them, “don’t care about this place” matter, but the school serves everyone, so the solution that is generated must work for everyone as much as possible. I don’t know if I changed any minds, but I did want to point out that you canot solve a problem larger than yourself if you are in your own bubble.

5. Empowering students to use their voice isn’t enough. There was only one point last year where I found myself frustrated and arguing with a group. Their topic was parking and they were arguing that because the rules of parking passes are not always enforced, students should not have to pay for parking passes. It is unfair, it was argued, that students who did not pay and do not have a hang tag were not getting in trouble, which was a very fair and valid argument. However, I had one question: at 150 spaces and $25 per parking pass, the school makes $3750. If parking passes were done away with (or were free), how does the school make up the loss of that $3750?

This had not been addressed in the presentation and I honestly thought it was a legitimate question because very often schools are on a tight budget and that money goes to a general fund that pays for various amenities. Plus, $3750 is not a small amount of money.

However, the responses were all about how it was unfair how people who didn’t pay for parking were parking illegally, and I heard that so many times that I had to stop the discussion and not only restate my question, but make the point that regardless of whether or not students are parking illegally, the school is still making money because the pasess are prepaid and always sell out. In other words, you need to listen to the question being asked instead of claiming that life is unfair.

Which is really what it comes to, when you think of it. Truly empowering student voice is not just giving them a chance to say something, but helping them refine how they say it. Because if we want them to feel that they are being heard, they need to make sure they are speaking clearly when we’re listening.

Short But Sweet: Thinking About You

Ever sigh and say, “I wish I could teach poetry but I … a) can’t find anything good, or b) don’t have the time.”? This occasional series of posts will focus on specific poems that I like and have even used that I find to be both engaging and amazing.

I’ve shown a lot of spoken word poems in class over the last few years and this one always seems to be one of my students’ favorites. That may seem odd considering it’s unlike a lot of spoken word poetry that you would normally see, especially since that most of the poetry that I see shared, while honest, is often about pain or loss or is angry or activist.

Not that I find anything wrong with using poetry to describe pain or loss or poetry that is angry or activist. I just think that my students like this poem because it’s funny, light, and positive in a way that if you think about it is very hard to pull off.

Love songs are a dime a dozen. So are love poems. But there’s a fine line between the all-time greatest love songs or poems and the sappy sort of pap that you find printed on a poster that you’ll buy at the mall (probably from the same place that sells Successories posters). “Thinking About You” has the feel of having struck that balance in the same way that George Harrison did when writing “Something” or Paul McCartney did with “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Plus, they can relate to sitting in class with their minds wandering and then texting that guy or girl to tell them they’re thinking about them. And if that’s not a good gateway to good poetry, I don’t know what is.

Is It Easier When You’re Popular?

One of my favorite units in advanced English is a study of essays and short stories that centers around the concept of identity, and among those pieces are at least a few that deal with the universal theme of coming of age and more specifically the struggle that someone can go through during middle and high school. I’ve written about it before, so I won’t get into the content of the literature, but what I have noticed is the reaction that some of my students have to some of the characters we’re looking at.

Angela Chase, the protagonist of My So-Called Life, is one who seems to get the most interesting comments, especially when I ask my students what they like or dislike about her. Some find her to be an honest character and someone who seems much like someone that they might know. Others don’t seem to like her because of thew ay that she is disrespectful to her parents, especially her mother, and how she seems to drop her beset friend, Sharon Cherski, for the way-more-exciting Rayanne Graf. Some also don’t feel as if they can identify with her or her problems.

Now, I don’t expect every single person in the room to connect with a character from a television show that was on the air nearly 25 years ago, but as I was considering their responses, I also had to consider who was saying them. Most of the students were popular. In fact, when we were talking about other works where people expressed their battles with self-consciousness and even anxiety, those same people had a lot to say, much of which were pat responses about being true to oneself. I facilitated the discussion and stayed as neutral as possible, but the netire time, I was thinking, “It’s easy when you’re popular.”

I am generalizing here, of course, and the responses I get from my classes vary year-to-year. In fact, the previous paragraph describes last year’s class because I literally wrote a draft of this post a year ago and am just now getting around to typing it up, and the discussion in this year’s class was more stilted and borderline unresponsive (cell phones proved more exciting). But the idea of an identity crisis to someone who fits right in with a school culture that values participation in sports and (often) heteronormative conservative values is probably a foreign concept. So the idea that a main character who would stop talking to her friend because she doesn’t know who she wants to be is also going to be foreign.

Meanwhile, there is someone else in the room who may be looking at her and saying, “I get that.” Sometimes, those students have something to say as a counter point; sometimes, I will bust in with an “old man Panarese” anecdote where I talk about identifying with Brian Krakow, the show’s nerdy neighbor.

It’s only so effective, to be honest, and over the years, I have felt like the popular students, or at least the extroverted ones always try to dominate the converastion. And while I would never try and prove them wrong, I want t0 hear sometime else … something that doesn’t come from an overconfident cheerleader.

Short But Sweet: After the Disaster

Ever sigh and say, “I wish I could teach poetry but I … a) can’t find anything good, or b) don’t have the time.”? This occasional series of posts will focus on specific poems that I like and have even used that I find to be both engaging and amazing.

After the Disaster
By Abigail Deutsch

New York City, 2001

One night, not long after the disaster,
as our train was passing Astor,
the car door opened with a shudder
and a girl came flying down the aisle,
hair that looked to be all feathers
and a half-moon smile
making open air of our small car.

The crowd ignored her or they muttered
“Hey, excuse me” as they passed her
when the train had paused at Rector.
The specter crowed “Excuse me,” swiftly
turned, and ran back up the corridor,
then stopped for me.
We dove under the river.

She took my head between her fingers,
squeezing till the birds began to stir.
And then from out my eyes and ears
a flock came forth — I couldn’t think or hear
or breathe or see within that feather-world
so silently I thanked her.

Such things were common after the disaster.


I discovered this poem last year during our Poetry Out Loud competition.  I can’t exactly remember how I found it–more than likely, a student had chosen to recite it or it was in a list of poems that someone had been trying to choose from–but it was a poem that I took note of because of its subject matter.  More specifically, what drew me to the poem was that it was about September 11, 2001 but not wrapped up in the jingoistic patriotism that tends to typify 9/11 “tributes” you’ll be seeing on social media today (I’m posting this on 9/11/16).  Granted, it was only a poem that I remembered because of its 9/11 reference and a poem that I really didn’t “get” at first.  in fact, I’m pretty sure that I read it, filed it away, and then moved on to other things.

I came across it in a filing cabinet and remembered its first lines because of the way they rhyme, but also because I was familiar with both the geographical and familial reference found within the word “Astor” (my part of Long Island was once a place where a number of Astors vacationed in the summertime).  That was a hook enough to get me to want to read it again, and even then I didn’t completely get it and I had to read it a few more times to see what it was really about, or at least to come up with enough to give the poem a solid interpretation.

There’s something ethereal about the girl that the speaker encounters.  I want to ask my students, “Who is she?” and try to see if they’ll work beyond trying to give me literal answers.  Because there is an intangibility to poetry that teenagers often don’t get and any chance that I get to demonstrate that is a chance I’ll take.

Then, there’s the last stanza.  It’s where the narrator’s grief finally comes to the front and it all finally hits her.  Furthermore, with the last line, “Such things were common after the disaster,” she implies that she is not the only person who has had such things (i.e., breaking down on a subway train) happen to her, and I find this so honest in a way that so much other sentiment surrounding September 11 isn’t.

One of the things that always bothered me about the way many people remember the September 11 attacks is that there has always seemed to be an “acceptable” way to react.  And not to sound provincial about it, but so much of it has always seemed to come from people who had a significant amount of distance from the events in New York, Arlington, and Pennsylvania.  What Deutsch does here is give grief some reality and shows the humanity of the tragedy and the period after a tragedy.  And while I’ve never had the opportunity to use this is an English class yet, it’s my hope that when I do, they’ll understand how powerful it is.

Scar Tissue

One of the sentiments I see very often when people write about establishing relationships with students is that teachers need to show that they make mistakes and are vulnerable, and a lot of times that comes through sharing personal stories.  While I understand the ideas behind that, I am not sure that I completely agree because sentiments like that sound like they’re coming from a pretty, popular girl who is telling a less-popular, self-conscious girl that she shouldn’t be so self-conscious about her looks.  “Be vulnerable and tell stories” is the sentiment of someone who never had his vulnerabilities used against him or thrown back in his face.

One of my favorite essays of all time and hence, one of my favorite essays to use in my advanced English class is Alice Walker’s “Beauty: When The Other Dancer is the Self.”  I’ve mentioned it more than once and written about it more than once and that’s because it’s so well-written and generates some great discussions about how people judge one another based on physical traits or characteristics as well as the cruelty of children toward one another.  We discuss this essay in my classes via student-run seminars, so I don’t do very much talking except to either clear up factual questions the group can’t answer (although I have been known to jump in when things go completely off the rails).  But when it comes to this essay, it’s very hard for me to not say anything because of how the subject matter affects me on a personal level.

You can’t notice it unless you look very closely or meet me in person, but I have a scar under my right nostril.  It’s the result of a bicycle accident I had a few days after my thirteenth birthday–my face hit the handlebars of my ten-speed and one of my front teeth went through my lip.  For the first three years after the accident, the scar was very noticeable because the tissue had keloided, meaning that it had puffed up and instead of looking like most scars, it looked like an extremely large pimple.  Combine this with the fact that I had two false teeth, which I was wearing until my orthodontist completed the task of moving my other teeth over so my dentist could cap them with veneers, the school year following the accident (eighth grade) was a nightmare.  I wasn’t really popular to begin with and the comments I heard ranged from “Can you take your teeth out?” to “Why don’t you pop that thing?”  I even had one person offer to perform home surgery with an ice cube and an Exact-o knife.

I am hesitant to compare my experience to Alice Walker’s because that would be an exercise in ego and I would surely be taken to task for my ignorance as well (and rightfully so), but whenever I read and discuss the essay, I can’t help but make that text-to-self connection and notice at least some similarities.  We both had noticeable scars (hers was in the eye, the result of a BB gun), and both had corrective surgery sometime later (I went to a plastic surgeon and had a skin graft done between my sophomore and junior years of high school) that on some level fixed the problem.  Walker writes about how her grades improved and she excelled beyond that; I heard, “Oh, you popped it!” a few times before not having to hear much of anything else about my facial irregularities.

Still, the damage was done and it took being around people who didn’t know about the scar on my face (read: people not from my high school) to realize that everything would be fine. As a result, I came to terms with my scar and the insecurities that came with it, and the scar on my face stopped being the first thing about me that people saw, thought about, or commented on.

I should tell this story when we discuss the essay in class specifically because it dovetails so well with it and as I mentioned, it’s a good text-to-self connection moment.  And yet my experience with being pushed around and both aggressively and passive-aggressively ridiculed during my formative years makes me very hesitant to do so.  I still reflexively act as if anything I say can and will be used against me.  Plus, even though my students are intelligent, they are also teenagers and not all of them have the maturity to absorb or handle that amount of honesty, especially from a teacher.  Sometimes they do, and I have told a version of my scar story and related it to the essay and that seems to be a positive contribution to the discussion.  Other times, I’ve started to talk but held back when side conversations and chatter that weren’t going on began the moment I opened my mouth.  After all, why should I open up like that to people who can’t give me the respect of a single word?

I have no problem making and owning mistakes as a teacher (I think I’ve said “I’m an idiot” out loud more times than anything in class), but the vulnerability and soul bearing that I read about doesn’t come as easy.  There is a line between humility and humiliation, and controlling who you are as well as how much people see of you is just a demonstration of your own humanity as baring your own soul.  Scars are what they are for a reason–they remind us of damage and of pain.  And yes, they can remind them of resilience and strength, but it takes a while for some of us with the scars to discover that, and until we own those scars we shouldn’t be told that we have to reveal them to and share them with everyone else.