The Chuck Effect

I was reading a collection of essays by John Steinbeck and one on literary criticism had this simple idea that hit home with me:

“Here’s a thing we are most likely to forget. A man’s writing is himself. A kind man writes kindly. A mean man writes meanly. A sick man writes sickly. And a wise man writes wisely.”

After I wondered for a minute about how I write, I thought of different ELT blogs I’m most familiar with and the people behind those blogs that I met. It just made perfect sense. Steinbeck’s was instantly the clearest, most logical explanation of why I feel drawn to some blogs while others leave me indifferent (or even repel me) and where this connection comes from when we meet for the first time offline. Their writing exposes their character, whether they intend it or not.

Today’s post is the effect of one man’s writing.

 

Chuck Sandy writes here about the importance need for listening to each other, and this couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m deeply bothered by the fact that students are not talking to me or interacting with me in a genuine, personal way, the way I know it, the way my job works for me.

I want to tell them about my day, about my life, about what makes me not just “sensei” (oftentimes nameless). It’s invariably painful when I’m addressed like that, even if I know it’s in the culture. I want to find words to reach out to them so that they know how that feels.

I want to tell them that I took an online sketching course and felt so excited to see I could have a little success, one at a time, and create something. I want to show them those photos of my sketches I shared on Instagram, because that’s something that gives me energy for teaching, it makes me myself now.

I want to tell them I started doing yoga and swimming regularly, and that I feel proud of myself for taking my own baby steps and carrying on with it for about a month.

I want to tell them about the book I’m reading and how interesting it is (or not).

I want to tell them about my dreams and hear theirs and talk about them together.

I want to tell them about my desire to travel all across Asia. I would tell them that I spend many of my evenings watching travel shows and taking mental notes of where I absolutely need to go in my lifetime.

I want to complain that it’s tough for me, too, to get up early 6 days a week, but that spending time in class together with them makes me feel better. That I relish their smiles (it is true).

I want to do this and yet I can’t, or I can but I don’t – because I’m shy, because I have a plan to follow and this would be wasting time. Because I heard student-talking time should be maximized. Because after the bell goes, they pack up their things and rarely say goodbye to me unless I say it first.

I want to tell them that I feel distraught and lost when sometimes they come 15 minutes before class starts and sit together in silence, not uttering a word to each other. At the same time I want to tell them I understand that this is just another class, and I understand they don’t have to actually like the people they share a class with.

I wish I could tell those things. I wish I felt comfortable telling those things, and it mattered that I shared them.

 

As I’m writing this, believe it or not, there’s a lump in the throat and tears welling up (which I stopped as proceeded typing feverishly).

I guess it’s true what Chuck wrote about becoming part of their lives. I want us to be part of each others’ lives, even if a little, even if for a short while, but genuinely so.

The teachers that I have warm memories about were the teachers who were empathetic, who said I was special, who genuinely praised me, who were real people above all. The teachers I didn’t want to upset by not coming to class or cheating on homework. The teachers in whose classes I felt comfortable sharing my views, even if contradictory to most others’, openly. I knew that they would accept and recognize me for me.

 

I started by the wise words from wise Steinbeck. As reading Chuck’s post drew me to the keyboard in a way I couldn’t resist or delay at midnight, I conclude and confirm for myself yet again that Steinbeck was right. A man’s writing is himself. So I call this post The Chuck Effect, because inspiring me to be pulling out the uncomfortable truths and writing from my heart is this man’s effect.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “The Chuck Effect

  1. OtC says:

    Hi Anna,

    As always, thank you for such a heartfelt and honest post. You always write with such passion and desire it is impossible not to be moved! I completely agree with your assessment of the writers you are drawn to and why. I’m honored to be considered among those you are drawn to.

    Regards your desires to establish a more personal relationship with your students, I empathize. Korea has a very similar, strict student-teacher relationship. It can be demotivating, to say the least, when so much of our teaching beliefs and values center around an open and honest communicative exchange between teacher and student, but that openness is not easily established.

    All I can say is keep doing what you are doing! You will have classes and students that remain at arms length. Don’t be dispirited. Additionally, it will make those successful occasions all the more satisfying!

    Wish I had more useful thoughts to share. Thanks again for sharing.

    John

    • annloseva says:

      Hi John,

      Thank you for kind words and support. It is true that it takes time to establish this connection, and maybe my sadness and frustration are of no help either..! I am keeping a journal about one such class and it has been helpful in seeing it.

      I think it is getting better, after some two months together!…

      Thank you for sharing your certainly useful thoughts! I know what I feel is not completely crazy)))

  2. Chuck Sandy says:

    I’m deeply touched by your post Anna and happy to have this effect on you. Sometimes you have that effect on me and sometimes others do. What we write for ourselves and then send out into the world often releases something in a reader that needs releasing. We have no control over this and it’s not an aim. It just happens. Best when it happens late at night and brings both tears and words shared. Thank you for your beautiful post. It made my eyes water, too. More release.

    • annloseva says:

      It’s been a month and I feel like it’s time to write more!…. More of something.

      I’ll be looking through your Facebook posts..to get the Effect)))

  3. Matthew says:

    My eyes water when I listen to Gregory Porter’s rich, heartful, pure voice…and both the first and second songs here, “No Love Dying” and “Take me to the Alley” both make me think of Chuck Sandy and inspiring people like him. And make my eyes water 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNJUzwBNbxo

    • annloseva says:

      I feel a little guilty about all the potential tears from the watering eyes in this thread…))

      Thank you for sharing what moves you!

  4. Chewie says:

    Indeed.
    What was the name of the book and the essay? Much as I enjoy Steinbeck, I haven’t read many of his books yet.

    Also, the repetition in Steinbeck’s lines brought to mind something similar from Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye:

    “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe.”

    Those lines have stayed with me for years, but only the “X people love X-ly” part, not the last part about the free man.

    Come to think of it, I’d love to try Steinbeck’s and Morrison’s lines out on students. Would they agree? Disagree? Could they bring in examples from life and literature? You might have an intriguing vocabulary lesson there, or perhaps a writing lesson: “X people (verb) X-ly.”

    Thanks for a stimulating post!

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