The Very Spring and Root

An engineer's adventures in education (and other musings).

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Ain’t No Party Like a Teacher Party

Tantalizing hints that Akil might be at the party, or at least showing up to it soon.

Last weekend, one of my BTR colleagues hosted a Halloween party. Yup. Ain’t no party like a teacher party, especially when nerdy costumes are the order of the day. Naturally, my co-resident Akil and I had to come up with geeky ways to represent Physics. When it turned out that he wasn’t going to be able to make the party after all, we hit upon the perfect costume for him.

Before the party, we were both very vague about whether or not Akil would be showing up at all. We made contradictory statements, and framed the question in terms of theoretical possibilities (note: this does not improve one’s social standing). Then, on the night of the party, I showed up with a pad of post-it notes and started posting cryptic messages all around the party, such as:

“Akil was probably here.”

“We are almost certain that Akil exists.”

“The effect of Akil’s presence is evident in the behavior of the cohort but he has not yet been observed at a social function.”

“If Akil doesn’t exist, we don’t know what to do.”

“This social interaction only makes sense if we assume Akil started it.”

…and so forth. Of course, Akil never actually shows up to the party (as per usual). Give up? He’s the Higg’s Boson! Bwaaaahahahaha….

Maxwell’s Demon shirt. A little too abstractly nerdy in retrospect.

Yes, I know, very clever, thank you.

Mine was much less easily explicable, and hence not as big of a hit. It also didn’t help that I threw it together in about an hour. I walked down to Goodwill and found a plain white tshirt, snagged some markers and a pair of devil’s ears from CVS, and put together a poor man’s Maxwell’s Demon costume. It even included two “pockets” of energy. Ha. Haha. Hahaha.

Anyway, bonus points for still remembering the Boltzmann Entropy Equation and the Boltzmann Distribution Equation (on the back of the shirt), right?

Ah, nerding out.

Pardon the Disruption – We Just Love Each Other

As posted by me this morning on the Boston Teacher Residency blog:

If you were at a certain bar and grill on Boylston Street in Back Bay last Friday night, you may have noticed a large group of constantly-smiling people who had apparently transformed a significant fraction of the underground bar into their own eight-hour raucous dance party. You would have noticed that said party continued to exude warmth regardless of incredulous stares and even the slightly awkward attempts by others to join in. You would have heard vigorous debates on race as a social construct and multidimensional n-branes as a fundamental building block of spacetime. And you would have heard a lot of overpowering laughter, swelling repeatedly like a tidal wave trying to drown the room in our good times.

Um, yeah, so that was us. A bunch of urban public school teachers in training. Hi. Allow me to attempt to explain our exuberance in disrupting your regularly scheduled evening at the bar.

The context for our party was a desperate, pent-up need to have a great time after what I can only lightly characterize as “a rough week.” We explored (many of us for the first time) how ugly, pervasive, and seemingly inescapable some of the injustices in the world are. We all lived out multiple examples of how none of us, no matter how committed we are to social justice or how much we have suffered or studied, are immune from the very systemic biases we are trying to correct. All in all, it was a painful and emotionally raw week in many ways. By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, we were asking ourselves, “In spite of all this, what is it that gives us hope? What makes us think we can do this?”

I heard many good answers to that question in class, but I saw a great answer to that question in what happened after class: that in the face of the darkness of the moment, our unconscious response was love.

In retrospect, I think now about how we were easily the most diverse group in the room, on so many levels: race, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, educational background, family dynamics, where we grew up, how we talk, and so many others. We were such an obvious grab-bag of different kinds of people together. And we were positively radiating a lot of love for each other and having an amazing time, oblivious to how anyone else was looking at us. Say what you will about our sense of decorum, but no one could have been in that bar and not felt the love.

In Language, Power and Democracy class we talked about creating “Islands of Decency” and “Pockets of Hope.” Perhaps few of the people who observed us on Friday would consciously frame it in these terms. But as a group I think that we are a pretty awesome Island of Decency and Pocket of Hope ourselves—just in who we are and how we treat each other. Maybe someone who saw us will remember our faces laughing and dancing together—and internalize a small kernel of what humanity could be like if we tried. If that vague memory of us changes even one action by one person for the better, then we did some good for the world just by showing it how much we can love each other.

I am forced to an unavoidably cheesy but logically inescapable conclusion: that we can succeed in this endeavor by making a moral choice to believe in love and living our lives like we mean it. Maybe this is how we can make the impossible possible.