Posted by: L. E. Barnes | November 11, 2009

Back Again

Once again, I’ve let too much time lapse between posts…

Big news from the family front: My sister, who has suffered from all kinds of financial, health, and marital problems for quite a while, called tonight to let us know that she had just gotten out of the hospital, where she had been treated for pneumonia. While she is breathing better, she won’t be able to work for a week, and money for them is super tight. (They live in Hawaii–thus, high cost of living. And the economy out there has been worse than on the mainland.) But that’s not all; her doctor told her she’s 10 weeks pregnant. However, due to all the medications she’s been taking, not to mention all her various health problems, they expect the baby to be miscarried. My mother has already been having kittens over my sister’s other problems, so hearing this news has ratcheted up the worry. All I know to do is pray as St. Macarius told his student to pray in difficult situations: “Lord, have pity on us as you desire, and as you well know how.” I pray daily for the salvation of my sister and her family. God have pity on them with this situation as well.

On the job front, the semester is in the final stretch. It’s been a bit rough for me as I’ve tried to get back in the teaching groove. Recently I had to read one of my classes the riot act (for the second time this semester) over some of the lack of cooperation and disrespectfulness that had been going on. Then a few of the students from that class went to the head of the English department to complain about the grades they had gotten on one of their assignments. Fortunately, the department head, as well as the woman who oversees the composition program, proved very supportive of me. Also, other instructors have assured me that they all have had to deal with complaints and disrespect from students. It can be frustrating at times nonetheless. At the college level, we really shouldn’t have to deal with classroom misbehavior, since there is no excuse for adults not knowing how to comport themselves properly. But it happens, and I’m having to learn to deal with it effectively. 

I’m reminded of a scene in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in which the narrator is looking over some papers that detailed plans for Christianizing the Africans and found that Mr. Kurtz had scawled “Exterminate the brutes!” on one of the pages. In other words, his sentiments had degenerated from heady idealism to utterly callous cynicism. When working on my MA in English, I read a book by a composition professor that used that scene from Conrad’s novel to warn of how teachers likewise can let the problems they encounter in the classroom turn them into cynics. To keep bitterness from taking root, I pray for my students. And then there’s always that good old Serenity Prayer…



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