Friday, December 10, 2010

Truth and chickens

I like knowing the truth, and I generally like putting it out there, whatever it is (it doesn't always go well, of course). Emily Dickinson, that wise old housebound poet, says we need to let the truth dazzle us gradually, or we'll be blind. Fair enough, but I prefer to have you lay it on me. Don't hold back.

Why am I thinking about this? First, student evals. Two nontraditional students ripped me a new asshole (or would that be new assholes, since there were two of them?) on anonymous evals. Again, fair enough, since I "wasted [your] money on bullshit!" So, why didn't you stop flapping your white wings and step up and tell me so we could negotiate? I am open to it--seriously--I want to make class OK for you. AND--this is what chaps my ass--why were you all nicey-nicey to my face all semester, in that horrible passive-aggressive way? I *hate hate hate* that. Just get it out there, people! Let's be honest!

Not claiming your truth = chickenshit behavior.

I realize American social conventions do not allow for truth. If people do say it, it's angry and awful and hurtful (as these evals were), and anonymous. Could we please have some cultural training in how just to say it without being mean? Kthxbye.

Secondly (and more interestingly): characters. Here are two I admire who ALWAYS tell the truth: Heath Ledger's Joker and (oh yes) Anton Chigurh, from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (the film version). These men are no-holds-barred, strafe-the-world types, not chickens in any way, and I envy them, as humans and as written creations. I marvel at how those characters are flat-out awful, but so straightforward in their agenda.

It may be that characters who tell the truth are villains, so I guess I'd better get cracking on some villains. I don't know if I'm talented enough to create a YA Anton Chigurh, but I will aspire. Off to do that now in my WIP, though on a much smaller scale.

And students: suck it up and tell me you hate it. Don't be chickens.


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  2. Really interesting post to me as a student, as well as an aspiring teacher and writer. As a student, it's nice to hear that there are teachers who want our input. I've had some teachers who I know are completely open to students' input (but generally, they don't need it), as well as ones who I'd never dare say a negative thing to(and they were usually ones who needed to hear it.)

    I taught daycare, which obviously isn't the same, but one perk of teaching three year olds is that they will tell you when what you're doing is and isn't working for them. Of course, they're three, so you have to take everything they say with about a pound of salt, but they do help to guide activities in ways that interest them.

    As a writer, the concept of honesty tends to drive a lot of my work. Just finding the truth, whatever the heck that is. I love to write about that confusion, especially in young adults.

  3. I should have mentioned the power/intimidation thing re. the students--some students are just plain scared to talk to a teacher, especially nontrad students. No matter what I could have done, they never would have spoken to me about their anger/dissatisfaction. Sigh.

    I love to explore the concepts of honesty and truth in my work, too. It's hard stuff, and always provides a ton of material. : )

  4. I found writing Teacher Evaluations in art college incredibly intimidating. In art school, you're exposed to brutal critiques of your work daily, and you're supposed to take it with grace and poise. I can remember one particular teacher who could be incredibly nice to me but also say and do some really outrageous things, but I only barely mentioned how uncomfortable he made me on the evaluation. In reality some of this could've been grounds for a harrassment case, but it never would've occurred to me back then.