Monday, December 7, 2015

Aimee and Tess Blog Post

Although I won't be researching writing in letter form, I find letter writing to be extremely useful in the healing process. I recently discovered that writing a letter to one of my overwhelming emotions (e.g. worry) actually helped me acknowledge it through personifying it and ultimately gain compassion towards it. Writing this letter allowed me to restructure my relationship with my worry in a way that helped me regain power in that situation--I didn't feel so helpless anymore. I was able to get out of bed and start my day with a more positive outlook. No matter to whom or what you address a letter, there is something in the direct communication that opens space for your transformation with that entity.

I really enjoyed Aimee's chosen article, "Writing Memoir and Writing for Therapy." This piece spoke to a lot of my own questions I have for my research paper. What exactly can a professor do to draw a line between therapy and writing? But in reality, this fear-driven separation doesn't give a fair portrayal of what counseling actually does. Both therapy and writing to heal have a process that involves confession, yes, but more importantly, the restructuring of thought processes surrounding trauma. DaPra describes this process when she says that "while the initial writing—the first draft—may provide a cathartic effect, the lasting benefit comes from seeing the problem in a new light—the organizing, editing, and structuring of a piece of writing."

Both therapy and writing have the potential to be ineffective. "The point is, that isn’t the fault of the subject. Poorly run group therapy, where members do nothing more than complain about the same problems over and over again, doesn’t make people better, either; in fact, it can make them much worse, by reinforcing negative thought patterns. But both writers of memoir and those in therapy must reflect thoughtfully on their stories."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Emotional Intelligence: Lauren, Charlotte, and Karen

The articles our class has shared so far have been surprisingly attention-grabbing. Many of them I found relevant to my own research in teaching emotional literacy and the problems in how we teach our kids through public education. I also found a lot of their articles to be relevant to issues our campus has been facing. I particularly appreciated the article "Should White Men Stop Writing?" because as a white person, I've often struggled with figuring out how to join the conversation on racial injustice without taking a space that isn't mine to occupy and without silencing voices of POC any further. Even though white men cannot possibly account for the stories of POC, he can talk about his experience with his whiteness. Tim Wise, a white author on racial injustice in America, once said that he never thought he had any experience with race until he realized his whiteness is his experience with race. It's a lack of obstacles and assumptions. It's a place of privilege that allowed him to remain blissfully unaware for a notable amount of his upbringing.

I also really enjoyed Charlotte's "Empathy and emotional intelligence" article because I found it to be closely linked to my own research. It's interesting how Konstantikaki and Ioannidou argue that all eight forms of intelligence should be given an opportunity for exploration by students. I know a lot of alternative schools, such as Waldorf schools, strongly emphasize the interdisciplinary way of teaching that intertwines different forms of intelligence. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Allie and Kirsten Response

I found the three articles that Allie and Kirsten chose to be both intriguing and informative. Kirsten's article, "Can Emotional Intelligence be Taught?",  was especially interesting because it built upon my own research for my paper about teaching writing and healing in the classroom. I have no trouble believing that mental and emotional well-being strongly impact one's ability to succeed academically. Teaching emotional intelligence in a kindergarten setting has shown clear benefits to the students despite their young age, because emotional intelligence is crucial at every stage of development. Kahn was able to present studies that not only proved the positive effects of creating room for emotional development in the classroom, but also provided tangible ways it can be done

Allie's topic for research particularly resonated with me because gender binaries are often implicitly reinforced in academia, and can lead to harmful effects on students. I believe that challenging social norms in a classroom is an excellent way to both encourage critical thinking and to also encourage a space for reflection on ways it impacts students on an individual/personal level. Despite the Buzzed being extremely entertaining, it also makes a strong point on how prevalent gender roles are taught to us, especially in our consumer-driven society that sells products geared towards each gender.

Overall, I think both Allie and Kirsten have chosen topics that offer a lot of insight into how we teach younger generations and ways we can encourage a space for healing through academia.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ephron Micro Essay

     I was the youngest out of five daughters in a makeshift family--my older sister, Abby, and I inherited three step sisters at the marriage between my dad and his new wife, whose sugar-blond hair and sweet pea cheeks seemed to me the pinnacles of womanhood and secrecy.
     It was never a competition between my sisters and myself because I always came in last. I was last to buy a bra, last to get my period, last to learn the language of flirting. Even at fourteen, my toothpick arms met at the center of my plank board chest. I wore a 28AA.
     I never really chose to be an outsider. I wanted to hang out and talk about boys. I wanted to make weird home movies and have inside jokes. There's a family photo of us: the camera captures the backs of three of my sisters, all holding hands walking down the sidewalk, me in the grass trying to keep up.
    With my nose pressed against the window, I grew up watching them thrive and rage their way through adolescence. There would be glimpses--moments of acceptance into their pack--a trip to the pizza shop, a pleasant car ride on a family vacation. But it was at this brink between knowing my place as the unwanted little sister and the hope of their acceptance, that my stance would teeter, unstable. I'd say or do the wrong thing and fall back over the edge, back again to the outside of the window looking in.
    To this day, it's rare for me to have female friends. A very small handful. It's always been easy to make the initial connection with other women--an extroverted personality makes for quick acquaintances. But it's always in that in-between moment, the teetering between acceptance and watching from my window, that I retreat. I say the wrong thing, I start acting weird. The ghost of my fourteen-year-old-self stirs somewhere deep within me, telling me to keep my distance, that I don't know what I'm doing and it's not worth the risk of a likely rejection.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"From Trauma to Writing" Response

Marian MacCurdy's essay on healing through writing was exactly the type of essay I've been looking for to include in my research for the pedagogy of writing and healing. MacCurdy addresses the delicate balance between an emotionally-literate writing class and therapy. Writing about trauma doesn't necessarily (and usually isn't) about the most emotionally-charged or intense experiences. And if they are, they need to be approached in organic, natural ways. She claims that "once students get beyond the clich├ęs that can undermine the power of the experience, I have found that those emotionally charged topics can generate sharp imagery, clear sensory detail, and thematic sophistication" (MacCurdy 159). She moves on to examine how writing about trauma actually helps students master literary devices more than traditional academic writing. Because trauma is non-linear, non-verbal and imbedded within images, sensations, etc., learning how to "show don't tell" is essential to convey an experience effectively. It's a win-win scenario. Writing about trauma helps take a chaotic event and help recover from it by making sense of it and being heard, while also more effectively teaching a student how to write.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Micro Personal Essay

Emotion was a complicated entity in my household growing up, an entity I could never truly understand. 

I have always felt everything, both joy and sadness, deeply and with every drop of passion in my body for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of me crying or throwing tantrums that were intense to say the least. My next door neighbor, Miss Fran, and I would frequently spend time together when my parents were out of the house. I can recall throwing a fit, over what I don’t remember. She witnessed it with patience and a heart swelling with sympathy for my overreaction. I begged her not to tell my mom. She promised that she wouldn't. 

My parents were not as understanding about my “temper.” I was often scolded, grounded, and otherwise punished for my emotional episodes. I remember hearing the word “cry baby” a lot. I remember a day, I might have been four or five, when I was sitting under my mother’s antique coffee table, sobbing uncontrollably. I remember my mother defeatedly telling me how I never go a day without crying, and up until the present day, her words are etched into my memory. I remember thinking at that moment, “wow, it’s true,” and made a conscious effort to go more than one day without tears. 

Before they separated when I was seven, my parents always fought. I remember my sister woke me up one night during one of their fights and the two of us stowed away across our backyard and into Miss Fran’s house. She was in the shower when we got there. She got out without washing the soap out of her hair. 

My father had a raging temper that no one ever talked about. My childhood was spent walking on eggshells, never knowing what would set him off. Six-foot-four and over 200 pounds, my father's untamable rage was more terrifying than the T-Rex that I used to think lived under my bed. Emotion was never predictable in my household. It was trial and error. It was crying for attention. It was yelling to feel heard. It was the secret, repressed love-hate relationship I had with the voices that I knew only I could hear. It was absorbing all the pains of the world into my five-year-old heart without a single crumb to lead me down my path of emotional literacy. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Entering the Pedagogy of Writing and Healing

I’ve always known that I wanted to teach, but not in the conventional way that I initially pursued. I came into Ithaca College as a secondary English education major, only to feel lost and discouraged for the first two years of my college career. I eventually switched to writing, which was the only aspect of the English education field that ever truly inspired me. I think what discouraged me from pursuing my education degree was that the pedagogy we learned was so narrow-minded. Much of what we were taught was about the infrastructural flaws in our public education system and how to maneuver around them. I didn’t feel inspired. I felt constrained. Within the first semester as a new writing major, I learned more about myself than I had in the previous four semesters. I explored language and the ways I can manipulate it to better understand my environment, our culture, my emotions and my own personal narrative. I became an essential part to what I was learning, rather than a separate entity from it, and was pushed out of the passive, disengaged absorption of facts and ideas and into self exploration through the learning curriculum. It was at this point that I remembered my passion for learning and my desire to be the same figure that inhibits and encourages the same learning experience in the lives of others. I still want to teach, just not in a traditional American school. 
The authors we have so far read this semester have more finely sculpted my intent to teach. Typical classroom settings reflect our overall society in that neither allow for space to address or explore trauma and general emotional literacy. Mental health and illness have always been both hushed and shamed through culturally embedded stigmatization. Yet, as we have discovered, isolation is one of (if not the most) aggravating force behind mental illness. In all the classroom and workshop examples we have followed in Writing and Healing, people heal most when working within a community to allow one to feel protected, accepted and heard by their peers. Many of our readings discuss the necessary environments that are conducive to a healing experience. 

In our two most recent readings, Jeffrey Berman’s “Writing about Suicide” and Jerome Bump’s “Teaching Emotional Literacy,” I gained a more detailed understanding of what it logistically takes to turn a conventional class into an opportunity for a deeper, more meaningful kind of learning—self exploration and healing. Both authors listed the necessities and obstacles they faced while transforming their courses. However, the more I learn about the pedagogy of healing through writing, the more questions I ask: does one have to be an established educator before introducing such a stigmatized and controversial curriculum? Is there a place in existence that focuses its teaching on emotional literacy and community learning? If so, where are they and how were they established? What other types of educational facilities teach in this way? Workshops? Private schools? I want to spend the rest of my time in this course researching how one enters the discourse of writing and healing and how I, as a perspective educator, can enter the field by focusing my teaching in this way while also incorporating other principles I value in education, such as sustainability and independent thinking.