Still Learning, Still Teaching

The election is over — even though the biggest loser doesn’t want to admit it — and I’ve been thinking about ways I’ve been teaching and learning lately. One thing I’ve re-learned from this election is the power of cults, mobs, and groups in general to deny reality. I am reminded of Gladwell’s notion of thresholds and wonder what our threshold is for this aggression that Trump is aiming at the country. Both Democrats and Republicans have a type of mob mentality going and each has a point at which they won’t take anymore…and then they act.

Republicans have these components more noticeably since they met for a convention, had many in-person rallies, are stoked by widely watched shows on Fox News, meet with guns-in-tow at protests, and are usually more black-and-white thinkers. They are in their bubbles of Parler, Fox, and even their churches and so far they’ve mostly kept their threshold in check (no overt violence in response to the election)…using denial to stir the stew. Democrats of course also travel in packs, but this year (due to our belief in Science and precautions over COVID-19) our mob has been mostly virtual. Not much excitement from a virtual convention. The campaigns’ of Democrats this year focused on using phone calls and other distant strategies to get out the vote and to emphasize to voters that their choice to vote early was essential to the party’s victory. What’s being tested these days is our threshold response; when will Trump’s denial of Biden’s victory cross a point that requires the Democratic mob to react? Possibly as a riot, possibly more civilly with Democratically-governed states sending out their troops to enforce the law…still provocative to be sure.

I’ve learned that decent, intelligent people can buy a bill of goods that goes against common sense and past conventions. I’ve seen a Presidential-led, Senate-supported, government official-allowed denial of election results. Millions of people saying “let’s pretend it didn’t happen” and allowing this un-truth to leave millions more (you know, the majority that won the election) anxious. Things haven’t fallen apart as much as some predicted…yet.

The next month or two will be very telling for us as country.

While this (above) did appear on Fox, they also refuse to refer to Biden as ‘President-elect Biden’ and have many articles doubting the results.

What I really want to talk about is the ways I’ve been teaching and learning lately (two of my favorite past-times). Here’s an overview:

* If you’ve been a frequent visitor to my blog, you know I love to juggle for its meditative, fun vibe. I have a couple videos on how to do it, but the best way to learn it is to try it…drop the balls…and keep trying.

* I also have a lesson posted on the Red Cedar Writing Project’s Writing Enrichment page. It was fun using a presentation tool I had not used before. If you go to that link and scroll down, my lesson is called “Writing Friendly Letters.” I happen to believe that, as the Carpenters said lo those many years ago, what the world needs now (besides love sweet love) is to write a personal letter to a friend. It slows the world down around you. The letter will be incredibly appreciated and you’ll most often get a written response. The link above has other activities for K-12 students; if you’re looking specifically for high school enrichment, try the Greenrock page.

* I presented a short, Zoom session on Limericks as a Coping Strategy for the Michigan College English Association conference last month. It’s fun if that’s what you’re looking for.

* I’m tutoring one fourth-grader virtually as part of an initiative by our church to engage more with our local community.

* As a member of the Lansing Poetry Club, I will be leading a poetry workshop in March on Poetry of Witness. Stay tuned to our Poetry Calendar for more information on that workshop and monthly workshops between now and then.

* This week, I begin co-leading Stephen Minister Training at the Peoples Church of East Lansing. Stephen Ministry is a lay ministry employed by many denominations across the country and world to offer companionship to people going through tough life events. My years as a Stephen Minister strengthened my faith in God and my recent training as a Stephen Leader gave me the skills and confidence I needed to facilitate this ministry. It is a blessing in my life.

* I definitely learn a lot from writing. Whether it’s in my journal, here on this blog, with my writing group, in my recently released book of poems (My Name is Aram, Too), or writing a novel in a month with NaNoWriMo, writing pushes me to think and to consider what it is I believe and feel.

In conclusion, we need to keep learning and some of us need to keep teaching. One guy who embodied those qualities was Alex Trebek who died this past week. Jeopardy won’t be the same without him…meaning he’ll be missed…not that I fear change.

Here’s a wonderful tribute to him. It’s kind of long and seems to include commercials (though I worked around them by refreshing the page). If you’re interested in how Jeopardy runs and some of Trebek’s thoughts on life, I recommend it.

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