Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

When it rains, it pours, and then it stops raining…

I have had a blessed string of good fortune of late.  Shall I just list the good things that have rained and then poured in the last few weeks?

After convincing myself it wouldn’t possibly come true, I received news that I was indeed accepted into the Fulbright Scholar program for 2013-2014 to conduct research & teaching in Oaxaca Mexico.  I then received my department’s and college’s support.

I received news of a wonderful college award for my research accomplishments–official announcement to be released soon!

The North Dakota Quarterly (NDQ) accepted all 8 of my poems submitted for consideration to be published in a forthcoming issue–it’s a rare bliss to have one or two poems accepted from a batch, but the whole batch, dynamite!

My poem, “Woman Shows Me Where We Are in the Service” was nominated as a Finalist  in the Raynes Poetry Contest judged by the great Gerald Stern.

When it turns out that “Woman…Service” was one of the 8 poems NDQ wanted to publish, they said it didn’t matter–they would republish it in order to keep it with the suite of 8 poems.  Yahoo!

My co-authored article with Sharon Chapelle was just published in the Review of Research in Education–a visible publication to showcase what was one of the most enjoyable joint authorship experiences I have been blessed to have–it truly showed me that two minds together are greater than one.

My children are healthy.  My son is learning to read. My daughter is full of joy. We have art in our life of all kinds.

So all this goodness comes swiftly into my life and I take it in, shout from the rooftops, breathe!

And then, and then.  My sweet husband shared news of my good Mexico fortune and learns that his school district will not provide any leave of absence without pay and will force him to resign.  I learn I need surgery and come out of it feeling a good decade older and more physically weak than I’ve felt in years.  My friend loses his wife; another divorces; another has cancer.

What are we to make of the great ups and downs, twists and turns?

I write a new piece of scholarship with great joy, in the company of hopeful and talented graduate students counting on me to lead the way to publication, respect, opportunity.  The editor calls my empiricism into question, gives an “R&R” (revise and resubmit) but between the lines is the message: the work isn’t good.

Ah, how good it is to age! I have experienced this before, many many times.  Things are good.  Things are not good.  Things are great.  Things are terrible.  And so life goes: up, down, middle middle down up.  These inevitable cycles keep life interesting–too many ups and perhaps one might get sloppy, haughty, irresponsible.  Too many downs and one might get cynical, miserable, overwhelmed by despair.

I wonder what it would be like to train much earlier in life for these inevitable cycles? Might it be possible to co-teach ourselves persistence in the face of failure? Humility in the presence of accomplishment?

Father Greg Boyle cited the mantra/play title he adheres to in the face of endless gang violence crushing the bodies of “homies” he’s come to love:

Now. Here. This. 

“Now. Here. This, Now. Here. This.”

This now, this present–it is ever changing.  One might be daunted by such inevitable change, such inevitable unhappiness.  Or one might ride the currents of change with animal presence, utter acceptance.

Now.

Now is good. Now is not good.

Now is This

And This

Is a life long lesson worth endless study.

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