Tuesday, June 30, 2009

After all... tomorrow is another day

Tough day at school.

(Whenever I start to complain about something, either in writing or in my head, I hear a voice: At least you have a job! Shut up, you don't have to protest for your right to live freely! How shallow - you want to hear problems, I'll tell you problems! And then I tell that voice to be quiet, for just a bit.)

First of all, I was already dreading coming to class, knowing that I was going to have to do something I really don't enjoy: it makes me question myself, my students, and the very nature of education. Second, many students were absent. Third, a planned lesson did not go well. And fourth, I overheard a student say something negative about me during the break.

With two weeks left in the quarter, I can't make significant changes. All I can do is reflect on certain policies, teaching methods, and lessons and try to improve. Some days I feel like I've found my voice in the classroom, one that's authentic and effective. Other days I feel like a shell of a person. A fraud.

That said, scheme of things, I'm fine - lucky to be where I am, to have jobs, family, and friends; lucky to be typing this out, trying to get enthusiastic about going for a run.

But I'm allowed to say tough day :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oh, Introverted World

The Atlantic had a great article recently about introverts, and extroverts' inability to truly understand them. In "Caring for Your Introvert," Johnathan Rauch writes that
[s]cience has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans, that introverts process information differently from other people....[A]fter an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."
While introverts make up 25% of the population, we remain a very misunderstood--and even oppressed, Rauch suggests--group of people. I don't know that I'd go that far, but I agree with Rauch that traits that characterize extroverts--outgoing, people-persons--are seen as positive, while traits that are applied to many of us introverts--loners, guarded, private--are seen as negatives.

I was just at dinner with a group of people. I spent 5 minutes being "on," telling stories, reacting presently, and then suddenly the light went out. It's almost comical in that I see it happen; I feel my energy drop and my patience wane. I still smile and nod and laugh when I'm supposed to--and I'm always grateful to be around company--but I can't turn that switch back on. This is the whole reason I abandoned my elementary teaching degree; I don't sustain the necessary energy.

Rauch writes about presidents and politicians typically being extroverts: Clinton and George W. among others. He says that "to think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics--Calivin Coolidge, Richard Nixon--is merely to drive home the point."

But Rauch doesn't mention Obama. While Obama does give great speeches and seems to feed off large crowds, one gets the sense that he needs his time and space to recharge. Obama reads and writes and wants time to reflect. He's definitely one of us.

Rauch concludes:

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice? First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

Third, don't say anything else, either.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Five After Five

Traditions are important to me. This is why I go to my grandma's each Sunday to do laundry, even though I have a machine in my own basement. This is why I look forward to most free Saturdays, knowing that my mom and I will spend a couple hours perusing the shops and not buying anything but an iced mocha. This is why, in college, I got together with three girlfriends each Wednesday afternoon to complain about and celebrate our respective lives. And lately, this is why all week I look forward to hanging out in a grocery store each Friday evening.

I'm not sure when Five after Five started at Whole Foods in Cincinnati, but I started going in January. Customers pay $5 to get a wine glass and menu, and they go around to five different stations sampling wine and hors d'oeuvres. The wine portions amount to a third of a regular-sized glass, and so while customers may feel affected by the wine, they certainly haven't over-indulged.

I've learned a lot about wine, but I have to admit that I spend more time mustering the courage to try some of their food samples than I do reflecting on my reactions to pinot grigios and zinfandels. My favorite part of the experience comes at the last station. While the other four stations always have something new, station five always has three cheese samples. The samples vary in texture and flavor. The accompanying wine is almost always a red (I can't remember a time when it wasn't) and delicious.

Once my friends and I have eaten our cheese and drunk our wine, we get a tiny dessert sample and miniature cup of coffee and find a table large enough for our expanding group. This is another reason Fridays are so special to me: I've been able to invite and spend time with friends from high school, college, work, and childhood (and even others, through their various connections). I may not go to fancy parties or hot clubs, but I wouldn't trade this tradition for anything.

Edited to Add...

The menu for June 26th, 2009

Station One:
  • Emeri Sparkling Sauvinon Blanc - this wine was light, crisp, and fizzy!
  • Chilled Peach Chipotle Soup - I gave this to my friend, but everyone else thought this sweet, fruity soup was full of win.
Station Two:
  • Yalumba Viognier - this white wine wasn't bad, but it wasn't memorable either!
  • Prosciutto Wrapped Melon - I also passed on this dish; it was a piece of fruit wrapped in what looked like bacon.
Station Three:
  • Ruffino Orvieto - a white blend, light and yummy
  • Grilled Cilantro Lime Shrimp - I... didn't eat this one either. This is the first time I've gone three stations without eating any food.
Station Four:
  • Penfolds "76" Shiraz/Cabernet - this red blend is a nice summer wine. It wasn't dry at all, which works for such small samples.
  • Steakhouse Bruschetta - the toasted baguette had a really nice pesto on it; I didn't eat the steak.
Station Five:
  • Gabbiano Chianti - another nice red from Italy.
  • Fromage a Trios (Zamorano Marques de Castallio DO, Kaltbach Le Gruyere, & La Serena) - I don't remember which is which, but all three cheeses were delicious!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Love at first deconstruction

Leaving home for the first time, it's not unusual to experience a range of emotions, from fear and excitement to confusion and jubilance. We're confronted with new people, new places, and new paradigms. It's also not unusual to fall in love. But like so many experiences and feelings that arise during college, that love can't last.

I fell in love for the first time at college with Non-Euclidean Geometry. It was an honors seminar, meaning the students in that class - all ten or eleven of us - had achieved a certain GPA and SAT score. We talked about math and its postulates and the ramifications of omitting that troublesome 5th postulate (it's been ten years, but I think that's the one about angles in a straight line adding up to 180 degrees... or something to that effect). The class was wonderful: it was challenging and required us to think not only mathematically but also creatively. I took it during my first semester at Denison, and I can't imagine a better way to begin the college experience. It was love!

Alas, this love rendered my thinking unclear. I developed a misguided notion that I should be a math major and that I should ignore my AP credits and take Calculus the next semester. While I loved taking calculus in high school, the college class was a more typical experience: twenty-five students at desks, taking notes while the professor went through the text book. I didn't study, and I didn't care: I received a B minus in that class and sold my text book for 10% of what I had paid for it.

At the same time I was taking this calculus class, however, I was also taking creative writing. I wrote stories and poetry and fake journal entries. It was a blast and set the stage for my next experience with true love during my sophomore year: postmodernism.

Learning to break things apart, to seek multiple angles and truths, comes naturally now. I'm always looking for the other side of a story and finding the bias. But when I first learned the definition of "Postmodern," and when I first deconstructed a Shakespeare text, it felt novel and important. Suddenly, I wasn't reading for meaning; I wasn't trying to find patterns or undertand themes or the author's motives - I was looking for holes in the text and places where I could tear it apart. Texts and stories were contructs - illusions - and my job as the reader was to dispel their myths. I was enamored by that responsibility and in love with removing meaning from the written word.

Not until years later, first working in a library, surrounded by books and people reading them and gaining meaning from them, and then teaching the reading and interpretation of books and literature, have I regained that love for myth and story. My favorite quote, and I've used it here and in class on more than a couple occasions, is from E.M. Forster: "How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?" I see this search for meaning. Truth. Patterns of my own as well as the society around me.

There is power in our stories and our narratives, and I don't think it matters if those narratives are inherent or imposed. Facts are facts, truth is truth, and as Gertrude Stein said, "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." Yes, each "rose" comes with its own associations -- feelings, emotions, images -- but in the end, it's still just a rose.

I'm in love with words, and I know this isn't just a passing infatuation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Life, moving toward chaos

The few days have served as reminders of how chaotic and random our world can be in ways both large and small. Two metro trains collided in D.C. yesterday, killing seven and leaving dozens injured. Imagine: it's a weekday, you're on your way home from work, thinking about your family, listening to your iPod, reading a newspaper. Suddenly your life changes, or it ends.

Saturday we received news of the Governor's budget proposal. Among other cuts is a 50% reduction in funding to Ohio libraries. Over 70% of libraries in Ohio receive their funding solely from the state; that is, they don't get local funding. If the cuts go through, half our branches could close. Two-hundred employees could lose their jobs. I'm less worried for myself - I hedged my bets a few months ago when I switched to part time and picked up another class - than I am for the librarians who have dedicated their lives to this organization. The budget goes to a vote on June 30, and the effects will be harsh and immediate.

The list of proposed cuts is frightening: Ohio libraries aren't the only institution that would be negatively impacted.

Iran - the media have finally caught up with events on the street.


(By the way - watching a surreal episode of South Park in which all the guys in town turn into metrosexuals. They even have a metro pride parade. At the end of the episode, the wives beat the men from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," who turn out to be crab people).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two stages

Another short night of sleep. I fall asleep ok and then wake up a few hours later, mind restless. Luckily, today will be a relaxing day spent at my grandma's doing laundry and celebrating Father's Day.

In high school and college, my journal-writing increased and decreased in direct proportion to the amount of myself that I shared with others. Ideas and events that I share with my mom or friends are less likely to appear on paper. Fewer things are just bursting to get out or need sorted.

I think I'll go for a run :)

Two hours later...

I bought an iPod a couple years ago (an iPod Touch, actually) and love it. As a fellow blogger said, the shuffle function is one of the great inventions of our time. I listen to it on long car trips and on long walks. Unfortunately, I never bought new ear buds and am relegated to using the awful ones that came with them. This means that trying to run while wearing them is futile - they fall out again and again, and it's just not worth the effort. Some day I'll spend the money for some head phones specifically for running, but for now, I'm trying to take advantage of my lack of running soundtrack.

Sunday mornings are pretty quiet around here. No one's congregating on corners, and cars are infrequent. As I ran, I isolated the different sounds I heard: three distinct types of bird chirping, hums from the air conditioners of each house I passed, and a helicopter in the distance. I've written about getting caught up in the "big picture," not seeing the trees for the forest. It can get overwhelming thinking about each tree--especially thinking about them at the same time--but those trees are beautiful. We can't totally ignore them for the forest. There are also simple pleasures gained from each tree and from each bird chirp as long as we take the time to enjoy them.

Mixed metaphors and all.

Happy Father's day!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I woke up at 3am again and couldn't fall back asleep. At least I managed to finish the book I'd been reading...

I've been following the protests in Iran and wondering the truth about what's going on there vs my own projections. The mainstream media hasn't paid much attention to this story, and so a lot of information has come via tweets (#iranelection) and blogs such as The Daily Dish. What seems clear is that the vote count is inaccurate and that there is no free speech in Iran.

So I had to laugh this morning when I came across an article in TalkingPointsMemo. Yesterday, TPM reported, Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra tweeted about the situation in Iran, "Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House." The reaction on twitter was fast and furious, and here are some examples of replies (via TPM):
ArjunJaikumar @petehoekstra i spilled some lukewarm coffee on myself just now, which is somewhat analogous to being boiled in oil
chrisbaskind @petehoekstra My neighbor stopped me to talk today. Now I know what it is like to be questioned by the Basij!
luckbfern @petehoekstra I stand in solidarity with the oppressed rich white men of Repub Party in the House. #GOPfail Allah Akbar!
aciolino @petehoekstra Today I poked my finger on a hanger. Now I know what all those aborted babies go through.
ceedub7 @petehoekstra I got a splinter in my hand today. Felt just like Jesus getting nailed to the cross.
netw3rk @petehoekstra Someone walked in on me while I was in the bathroom. Reminded me of Pearl Harbor.
MattOrtega Walked out onto Constitution Ave in D.C. and was almost hit by a taxi. Reminded me of Tienanmen Square.
tharodge @petehoekstra maybe now is a good time to reconsider whether you are ready for national politics?
TahirDuckett @petehoekstra ran through the sprinklers this morning, claimed solidarity with victims of Hurricane Katrina
paganmist @petehoekstra Had to move all my stuff to a new office w/o a corner view. Now i know what the Trail of Tears was like. #GOPfail

Clever, eh? I'd almost feel bad for the congressman. But I've always had issues with people comparing their plights to those of others, even in situations far more analogous than the minority party in a democracy vs oppressed population in a theocracy. He just seems so dense.

(I was thinking of titling this post, "The Revolution Will Be Twitterized," but google--after asking me, Do you mean, "The Revolution Will Be Twittered"?--tells me that many, many articles already have that catchy title:)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"The pen is the tongue of the mind."

~ Miguel de Cervantes

I have a tendency to freeze in the moment. I’m certainly not unique in this way: many people lack the words when they need them. Me and them, we’re better after the fact. During the moment, the feelings and words are static, frozen, waiting until we’re alone to thaw. We need time to percolate. And that percolation may affect us more than the original moment did because things are clearer than they were. Now, outside that moment, on our own, we experience indignation or jubilance, and we know just the right words.

Me, frozen. The other day I was asked a series of rather personal questions. They weren’t necessarily out of bounds, but they’re the kind I usually don’t get asked because I so successfully project this bubble of aloofness. The way I fold my arms. The way I look down. The pregnant pause before I give a polite smile, as if I have to think before deciding to respond. I don’t encourage familiarity. In that moment, the other day, I responded by withdrawing from the situation. It was only after the fact that I felt anger over the intrusion, as if my privacy and my bubble had been violated.

I found the words yesterday. I said that I’m a very private person and I feel uncomfortable with this discussion. And now that I’ve found those words and can put them in a place where I can deal with them—in writing, in front of me, waiting to be manipulated—I see the comedy of it all: Me, a private, private person; me with a personal blog, writing my deep down thoughts for anyone to see; me with a facebook page and 100 friends; me with a twitter account, tweeting for the world—or my “followers”—to see; and me, who likes to indulge the melancholy, to be alone and undisturbed.

It’s funny. But I think most of my readers will agree when I say the two things – being private while broadcasting to a larger audience – are not necessarily incongruent. Writing, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, are indeed about controlling the message and constructing our identity. That doesn’t mean that any of it is dishonest – quite the contrary! It’s just that some of us need that little bit of time before expressing ourselves, presenting ourselves to one person or the world. Writing, whatever form it takes, provides that bit of time. The pregnant pause before hitting “post” or “send” is not awkward.

One of my unspoken goals is to merge my inner world with my outer one. Teaching and working in the public library have helped, but both of them are very controlled settings, with few surprises; I already have the words for those settings, and I rarely have to improvise.

Tonight I’m going to a birthday bash for an area blogger group. It’s not a group to which I formally belong, but I think it would be a good thing to be a part of. I know a couple people who will be there.

Merge, merge, me, them, us.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's Monday Already???

I drove up to Chicago and back this weekend, visiting a friend from my AmeriCorps days, her husband, and her young (13mos) daughter. It was a short trip, but I made the plans at the last minute. And even though I spent more hours driving than I did hanging out with my friend, I'm glad I went. Actually, I love driving. The driver's seat is much more preferable than the passenger seat, and I'm not speaking metaphorically here. In most situations, when a driver is needed, I eagerly volunteer (although my two-door compact car sometimes limits me). Especially when I'm driving by myself, I'm captive to my thoughts and free from other distractions.

On my way there, I listened to a playlist I had created of my favorite songs from my favorite cds. No themes, just favorites - or so I thought. I had just gotten through Indianapolis (which carried its own mind associations for me) and realized that I had been listening to really depressing music the entire trip. It was just one sad song after the next, and after a while, I noticed they were actually affecting my thoughts. I indulged the melancholy until I hit the tolls; at that point, I went radio silent.

On they way back, knowing that I didn't have to concentrate so much on the directions, I listened to some podcasts I had downloaded, including some readings of short stories. The first was an Anton Chekhov story about an encounter on a train; the second was a story by an Irish writer called, "Brother"; the third was a lovely story by Tobias Wolff, called "Awaiting Orders"; and finally, my favorite of the bunch, a story by Mary Gordon called "Storytelling." The main character in that story is a middle-aged writer who's lost her passion for writing. She visits her brother in Florida where she meets a French man who admits to never having read a novel in his life. But he's still a masterful storyteller. By the end of the story, she's regained her passion for telling stories.

Now, these types of stories are almost cliched - writers writing about writers, struggling for some kind of voice. Writers struggling for ideas, for words, and finding those ideas and words by the end. I think of S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders" as a prime example, with the end of the book being the beginning of the book. There are many of these books, just as there are many movies about the struggling writer, the struggling filmmaker. We're all just finding new ways of talking about ourselves, right? But nevermind that: I loved "The Outsiders" and "The Wonder Boys." And "Storytelling" was so compact and interesting--I was surprised that parts of it surprised me!--that I can't fault it for being cliched.

The rest of the way home, once I passed Indianapolis again and my eyes drooped more, I put my iPod on shuffle and skipped those depressing tunes in favor of upbeat ones (the Shins! Dandy Warhol! The Killers!) Through most of the drive home, I wished I were able to write and drive at the same time: ideas and thoughts kept popping into my head that I wanted to record. I had a really interesting conversation with my friend's husband, born and educated in India; I'll see if I can return to that another time.

(It's Monday already??? So much to do, so little time!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

So there's this young lady...

It's been a busy past few days, with my library, teaching, and social schedules conspiring to overpower my writing schedule. I write when I'm relaxed and have time to sit with my thoughts and ideas without other tasks intruding. While I might have a lesson plan in one window and the reds game in another, I never multitask with writing.

So I'm taking the few minutes I have before leaving for a long day at the library to drop in here; give a status update.

There are some days (weeks, months) when it seems obvious that nothing is going to happen. Nothing will change, and nothing will interrupt whatever routine I've set up. But there are other days (weeks, months) when I feel that potential: of the millions of things up in the air, they might fall down a little differently. Settle in new places. And I have that excitement of thinking about those new places. Maybe nothing will happen or change, but that potential is enough to give me a bounce in my step.

Monday, June 8, 2009

"A messy room is a messy soul."

~ Nana

It's so hard to make the big changes - careers, lifestyles, and life paths. It's hard to go from a person who goes about things just one single way to someone who goes about things a completely different way. Me, I've always liked clutter. Chaos surrounds me, whether it's piles of graded and ungraded papers or paid and unpaid bills. There are pens and rubber bands, too. A couple pairs of scissors. A paper shredder that's jammed and a stapler that no longer staples.

My version of cleaning involves me sitting in the middle of the floor, sorting and resorting, ending up with a stack of papers to throw away but somehow with no less volume in the end. I can hide stuff, though. I can make piles upon piles to put in corners; I can load my closet with egg crate cartons overflowing with old folders and binders and other things I can't categorize.

"A messy room is a messy soul" - this is what my nana says. She asks me about my apartment, if I'm keeping it clean. She must notice the hesitation before I reply, "It's ok." And she would also notice, if she visited, that my "cleaning" was actually just "stacking."

Back when I had two rooms - one at my mom's and one at my dad's - the one at my mom's was the disaster area. It was the one with sketches taped all over the walls and ten unfinished journals stacked next to my bed. It was the one that had the occasional visit from a mouse or scary spider. The one at my dad's, on the other hand, was spot free. Nothing was out of place; but then again, I didn't have all my stuff there - only the bare essentials. No furry creatures dared make an appearance in that room. While the room at my mom's would seem to be the more natural fit--chaos! clutter!--I felt equally comfortable in both rooms.

Me and my messy soul. A part of me must think it true. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it so much. But like I said before, it's hard to make the big changes. I can take the garbage out each week; I can keep my dirty dishes from piling up too high; I can push things into corners. Unfortunately, my rooms and my soul have never been and will never be immaculate (or, let's say, "neat").

Sunday, June 7, 2009

When she moves like she runs...

A few years ago, when I lived with a roommate, we developed a routine of running two or three mornings a week. After about 30 minutes, we came back to the apartment, put on a pot of coffee, and got ready for work while blaring one of our cds from a small player. The music was usually upbeat: The Shins, Killers, and Loving Spoonful (save the Coldplay, Elliot Smith, and Cat Power for the evenings). But my favorite cd to listen to in the mornings was Neko Case's great "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood," particularly the second track:

Running gives me energy and confidence. What's ironic is that I'm more likely to run when I'm already feeling pretty good about things; but it would make more sense to force myself to run when I'm feeling less than good - get that energy back; regain confidence.

Anyway, I just returned from a power walk around the neighborhood. I had a good day grading midterms, pleasantly surprised by some of the exams.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Silence is a text easy to misread."

~A.A. Attanasio

I've had a good past couple of days (I wonder how normal it is for people to constantly reflect over time spent and make evaluative judgments as to the quality and worthiness of that time?  Is it a writer thing?  Is it an introvert thing?  Or is it an everyone thing and I just didn't realize it?)

Thursday night I met with an informal writer's group ("SHORTS"). We sat around sketching ideas and pieces of stories. It was an interesting dynamic, sitting outside at a bar that became progressively louder as the night went on. That noise and patrons' distracting conversations (one girl loudly declared that she "for real hates the word 'zero'!") were at times hard to overcome. But, then, silence and quiet exert their own kinds of pressure and distraction.

Friday I met up with friends at a local Thai restaurant, where I had some of the best pad thai I've ever eaten - probably because I didn't have to pick anything out of it.  

Best of all, today I'll see my dad again.  Woo!

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Easy reading is damn hard writing."

~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Amy Bloom's "By and By" is a short story told from the point of view of a young woman who saw her best friend kidnapped. (Only later is it determined that the best friend was killed, too). It isn't a happy story. The narrator describes what happens, physically, to the heart and body most-mortem; she's very detached yet clearly very affected. The last paragraph is my favorite:

I don't miss the dead less, I miss them more. I miss the tall pines around Lake Pleasant, I miss the brown-and-gray cobblestones on West Cedar Street, I miss the red-tailed hawks that fly so often in pairs. I miss the cheap red wine in a box and I miss the rum-and-Coke. I miss Anne's wet gold hair drying as we saw on the fire escape. I miss the hot dog luau and driving to dance lessons after breakfast at Bruegger's Bagels. I miss the cold mornings on the farm, when the handle of the bucket bit into my small hands and my feet slid over the frozen dew. I miss the hot grease spattering around the felafel balls and the urgent clicking of Hebrew. I miss the new green leaves, shaking in the June rain. I miss standing on my father's shiny shoes as we danced to the Tennessee Waltz and my mother made me a paper fan so I could flirt like a Southern belle, tapping my nose with the fan. I miss every piece of my dead. Every piece is stacked high like cordwood within me, and my heart, both sides, and all four parts, is their reliquary.

I wrote some fiction last night; it's a start. To get back to that place where made up ideas flow, where I don't feel silly describing someone who doesn't really exist, will take time. I've been in the "truth telling" mode for quite a while!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Hallmark Card

It's useless to worry about things you can't control. And where you have a choice, always side with optimism and kindness.

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd"

~ Voltaire

In preparation for today's midterm, I asked my students to read a short essay by Shoba Narayan called, "In This Arranged Marriage, Love Came Later." Narayan, a young woman who grew up in India but was educated in America, describes how she married a man selected by her family and only grew to love him later:
Stupid and dangerous as it seems in retrospect, I went into my marriage at twenty-five without being in love. Three years later, I find myself relishing my relationship with this brilliant, prickly man who talks about the yield curve and derivatives, who prays when I drive, and who tries valiantly to remember names like Giacometti, Munch, Kandinsky.
Narayan concludes by explaining how her friends are "appalled" but "intrigued" that she let her parents choose her husband, quoting her friend: "How can I get my parents to pick out my spouse when they don't even talk to each other?"

On the midterm, I asked students to argue their opinion about arranged marriage: Could it work in the States, why or why not? My hope is that they see the gray area, that it isn't really a yes or no question.  But I keep going back to this idea in my head that I want them to take risks but also conform to a certain set of rules. (I posted my sample response a couple months ago).

Part of me feels like I'm playing a subversive game of politics. While I try to stay neutral in the classroom (this was especially tough last fall!), I don't share the conservatism that most of my students possess. My worldview tells me to break things apart, see things from different perspectives, and that these varied perspectives should be held in high regard. I won't try to define the conservative point of view, but "varied perspectives" are not as important; my ideas of "right" and "wrong" aren't as solid as those of my students. When I challenge them to seek out those different ways of looking at things, perhaps I'm also challenging their worldview, just as they continually challenge mine.  

I want them to use writing to explore and to dance around. My job is to teach them to use basic writing skills to communicate. But maybe I should liken it to learning how to drive when I was 15 or 16 on my mom's little Honda Civic with manual transmission. It took a while because I had to pay attention to so many things in addition to the clutch and the gears. But today, while I can easily drive an automatic, I love driving my little Toyota with the stick. I hope to teach them how to write with a manual transmission where they know how to select their own gears.

Ha. I sat down thinking I had nothing to say.