Gritty Details

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday's Storyteller: A New Play?!

Yep, I admit it: No short story tonight. And that's because I am outlining and beginning to write my tenth full act play!

It's another sci-fi play, though it's not inspired by or adapted from any of my previous work (unlike my play It Is Fragile or my feature film The Summoner and the Potter). I don't have a title yet, though I would love to start it with a J, as all of my plays have been written in alphabetical order by title. The first scene is finished, and I'm hoping to add more soon. I'm trying not to oversaturate my life with too many projects, whether they're my own or a collaboration with others. But hey, this is my passion, and I'm happy to indulge and work on my own pace for a lot of my work.

So I'll let y'all know how it goes! And if you want to hear what my play's about, let me know: maybe you can even help me come up with a title starting with the letter J.

Night, all!

Today's OneWord: Stats

We looked at everything when it came to the championship brackets. We checked the rosters. We checked the stats. We checked both individual performance and team effort. And in the end, we had an idea of who would most likely head to the finals.

"I'm just saying," I told my buddies over a tankard of ale at Mox's Tavern, "when you have experience as a dragon slayer, you're gonna do well in the beast bouts. Especially when you're a damn good swordsman."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Tonight's Poet Corner: Introspection

I've just finished a yearbook deadline. I'm in the middle of my annual performance poetry unit with my English classes. I've let the appropriate people know about my decision that I only hinted at in last week's introspection. No, you're not getting any more details for me.

I had to be reminded of something today, and it really jarred me. I talked about it with my wife on BART, as we were able to see a great play in the city (it's called, The Do's and Don't's and Time Travel, and if you're a bay area local, freaking see it, it's going until the 26th, here's a link). And when I told her about my experience, after so many days of stress and anxiety and anger from the people around me, I really began to realize how much I was losing my passion for something that is, in truth, super important to me.

But I want to write my thoughts down in a way that's appropriate to my life right now. Yep - time for some cheesy spoken word. Enjoy.

Why I Teach
by Belinda Roddie

This is why I teach:

One of my students, over six feet tall,
walks to my desk with cellphone
in hand. Her hair is pulled up
like an ebony tower, the Philadelphia
streak still burning behind her eyes.
She reads her poem to me,

mixes meter and shapes rhymes
as organically as depressing a seed
into a divot in Gaea's cheek. For
her and so many others in my English
class, this is the perfect medium.
In verse, she can loosen her tongue;

she can finally speak. No essays
or regurgitated thesis can feed
that hunger to communicate, nor can
dissertation spur voices on better than
at least half a dozen stanzas - nuance in
every line, purpose in every letter.

This is why I teach: A football star
enters my room after school with wet eyes,
tells me how his feelings got crushed like
soggy leaves under a waterlogged boot
in the dead of a damp winter. His
coach lacks tact, snaps a mask over

a threat's face so it can pose as
pseudo-motivation: "Get your act
together, or you're going to the 'loser
school.'" Which drives me crazy because,
as someone who first settled her feet
on the floors of an alternative academy,

claiming that breaking from mainstream
education equals failure is like saying
there's only one correct way of anatomy,
only one style of examination or
investigation. Every established detective
ought to smack this guy in the eye with

a magnifying glass. I asked this kid
how he thought I could help, what he
needed from me, and he revealed
that I was the first person he had confided
in about his current hurt. I wasn't
sure what to think at first, and it tightened

my throat more when he asked, "Do you,
at least, think I can avoid going to the
other school?" Dude, I have the confidence
that you can do goddamn anything. This
is why I teach: To give a jump start to a mind's
exhausted battery, remind them that they have

the energy to defy stale expectations. My job
is not to preach, but to question gospel.
I know what it's like to have a teacher not
believe in you - there's always one that
the superstars chastise, laugh about in
their acceptance speeches, raise a bird

sky high and let the expletives fly:
"Fuck you, Mr. Smith, I got a goddamn
Oscar!" There are so many ways to
take bad clay and shape it into a weapon,
turn it into incentive, but why can't we
just stick to being positive, encouraging

mentors for a change? This is why I
teach: I make myself a representative
of a world that I wholeheartedly believe
my students can thrive in. I wear a
rainbow on my sleeve so they can show
off their own neon tattoos, give them

proof that they're not alone. I didn't
have role models like those. I managed
to come out in college because my body
sent out a distress signal, and the one
professor I can thank for my survival only
resuscitated me after I had pulled myself
out of the water. He drew calligraphy
on my arm, spelled out the word

"authenticity," and I've kept it as
a mantra ever since. Where's that word
in other teachers' vernacular? Where's
their confidence that every kid they
lecture could turn out to be spectacular?

Where's the drive to improve their craft,
even after twenty-five years of steering
the same tired boat? Tying on a new sail
isn't gonna cut it; you gotta replace the dying
engine! This is why I teach: I feel what
my sister calls the fog of meaningless

dread. It's spurred on by winds blowing
from the screams of inner beasts who'd
love to do me in. I know I'm not perfect;
my teaching isn't even close to first class.
My lessons can be lame, my multimedia
method messy. I verge verbose, bewilder

the poor brains tethered to bodies
hunched over in desks that don't properly
fit their molds. I talk too much, react too fast,
and jump to shoddy conclusions. And if
my anxiety catches me off guard, my tone
and execution only result in more confusion.

Still, I know my strengths well, and when a
student approaches me for help, I will
provide support - maybe not shoulder
the burden, per se, but counterbalance
it, get them adjusted to the weight. I'll
speak hard truths and crack jokes when

warranted, always be willing to debate,
and if the storm produces more thunder
than rain, I will definitely mediate.
Here's the thing: I've made a choice
that will reduce the decibels of
my voice, cut short the trajectory

of whatever I'd consider, "wider influence,"
but I'll take the sacrifice for the sake
of sparing my sanity. I know the short-term
consequences may be as acute as
appendicitis, but if it stops the chronic pain,
then it's worth it. If I'm not careful,

I could lose everything I've built, so
a little extra spoonful of guilt may have
been the medicine I had to swallow. Because
today, to my horror, I had to remember why
I teach. And I'm sure as hell not going to
let myself forget that again.