Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Last Post for the School Year: The Golden Lotus Can and Will Always Bloom... even in the fiercest of flames.

This will be my last blog entry for the year.  With next week being truncated with all sorts of activities such as graduation practice, Great America, Tribute to Excellence, I think that this is the right blog entry upon which to exit.
It has been a real pleasure to serve all the stakeholders of 8.2 as your History teacher.  I apologize in advance for the thousands of mistakes I made this year.  I am confident that if everyone did their job, you all caught my self- imposed standard of 500 mistakes a day.  The sorrow I hold in my mistakes is only exceeded by the joy I have had in serving the parents/ guardians and the children of 8.2.  I have seen all of our students grow this year.  Sometimes, this has been demonstrated in the data of the class and in the work produced.  At other points, it has been demonstrated in the the reflective quality of our students.  Sometimes, it was simply seen in the look a child gives when "Something makes sense," or in an idea.  It could be merely in a moment where a child smiles.  (Ask anyone in seventh period about "Not to be a douche, but...")  In the end, I have tried my best to serve you all with the passion, intensity, and zeal of my instruction and the care for my vocation.  To borrow from Max Weber, I have tried my best to view "teaching as vocation."  In this, I seek only to share the qualities that I love in it.  These are the qualities of scholarship and enthusiasm regarding the world of ideas.  It is a lonely quest because the only companions I really have on it are my students who wish to join me.  This year, I have had plenty of companion, but it will revert back to one of solitude when they leave Julian on May 29.  The quest and sojourn will go back to being a lonely one.  (Ask of them about the difference between "lonely" and "alone.")  My company will be the thoughts of their participation on this journey.  It is what will comfort me in an insecure and uncertain future for our district and education.  For these memories, I can only bow my head and express my gratitude.
My wife and I visit a temple in India every year.  It takes about four hours to reach it by foot.  Then, the line to receive the Lord's Blessing, so that the Lord can see us, takes about five hours.  After nine hours, the devotee only receives a glimpse of about seven or eight seconds and then must make way.  Yet, those seven or eight seconds are worthy of a lifetime.  All seems to make sense in those seven or eight seconds.  While there has been struggle and challenge since August, I realize that teaching these particular students is my professional "seven or eight seconds."  At this point in time, with these students, it all makes sense.  For merely having "seven or eight seconds, " I offer my thanks.
Indeed, these students who have grown so much, are preparing for their inevitable departure.  The world they leave was made better, on the whole, because they were in it.  If the hallways of Julian could speak, I am fairly confident they would be happy that these students graced our corridors with their presence.  From the first day of sixth grade for many of our children, where they sought their advisory teacher in the Main Spine, to in 8th grade, where the cameras recorded their joy and passion about being in the world, our school has been made better with them in it.  I certainly believe that this team has been enhanced with their presence on it.  I know that my classroom was fortified and strengthened with their contributions to scholarship.  They will have to prepare for an uncertain world in which they enter.  In such a setting,  there is very little which is absolute.  I shudder to think of what will be there awaiting them.  Yet, I remind students of the commitment to scholarship that many of them showed this year.  Those lessons, not content- wise, but in spirit are going to be what will enable them to find success in what lies ahead.  These lessons of community, solidarity, compassion, and the need to probe through what is there and give more when more can be given are essential.  Students who display this in the face of the very challenging and arduous elements that lie ahead will find success.  In the end, the commitment to scholarship is what greeted students when they entered B405.  If they take this in what they will face in the future, there will be a greater chance of success.
We live in a cold and cynical world.  It is a world that our students will be confronting.  If I have one wish for them, it would for them to see what the world is and demand it to change into what should be.  To quote Swami Vivekananda, "This work is not the work of a day."  It will take a long time.  It will require commitment for it is a path "filled with thorns."  Yet, I implore our students to demand change.  I implore our students to make what should be out of what is, to not merely accept the conditions of limitations that we, as adults, have left as our testament.  Rather, take the skills that have been acquired in this setting of learning and strive to make it something that can be uniquely different than what it is.  Be not content with the cries of others' suffering- Do something about them.  Be not passive in the lack of zeal in the world- Be an active agent in the creation of "enthusiasmos," the Greek for "enthusiasm."  Be not a middling functionary in a world of deadening banality- Be a warrior of "arete" and that which the great warriors like Hector possessed.  Be not a slave in an army of destruction- Be a hero in an army of construction.  Helen Keller's words provide the greatest hope I have for our students as they leave.  These thoughts can only be accompanied by our closing theme in the unit of Progressivism.  While we concede- both thanks to Robert Frost and the CAST Production of "The Outsiders- that "nothing gold can stay," we also affirm that "the fight goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die."  I wish for all of our students to fight for that dream and to recognize that "rainbows are awesome" in avoiding the perils of blind obedience and indifference.  This would be the final wish, my final assignment, that I give to students.
The golden lotus can and will still bloom, even amidst the fiercest of flames.  To all of the lotuses that I send out from B405 into the world that have yet to bloom and to those that have already started that process, remember that no flame will temper your growth and maturation.
You have been of great service to this classroom, this content, and to this Indian Social Studies teacher.  There are no good- byes between us, as this room will always belong to you.  I only give you my best in what lies ahead.  May you always be able to tend the rabbits, stray from "Winter Dreams," and be like Mack in a world of Yertles.  In this, I hope that this message finds you well, now and always.
All best and thank you.
Mr. Kannan

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Alienation, Cruelty, God, Obedience, and Suffering: Just another week in 8.2 Social Studies!

We continue our study of the Holocaust through poetry.  Poets like Wiesel, Gershon, and Brecht will dominate our study.  My hope is that our students will be able to fully grasp the implications of expressing the Holocaust through poetry.

Here is our work for this week:
Monday-  Poetry of Persecution and Cruelty.  HW: Answer four questions on page 55 regarding the poetry of Cruelty or Persecution.  All extra credit is due on Friday morning, 9:00 AM.
Tuesday:  The Silent Majority.  HW:  Answer one question from page 58.  Make it worthwhile.  All extra credit is due on Friday morning, 9:00 AM.
Wednesday- The Milgram Experiment- The Perils of Obedience.  HW:  Answer two questions from the Milgram Experiment.  Small paragraphs on each.  Read the biography of Karen Gershon in your packet.
Thursday- The Poetry of Karen Gershon.  HW:  Answer one question from page 58 and one question from page 61.  2 total questions.
Friday- "Are you there, God?  It's me, someone from the Holocaust!" HW:  Answer three questions from page 62.

As we approach the end of the year, next week will be my last blog entry.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan