Teacher Appreciation Week & Appreciating Teaching by Sara Frykenberg

Part of discovering my love for teaching and moving through my anxiety involved reconsidering my “ideals” of teaching, which were numerous and high minded.

I always wanted to be a teacher. Sure, I had other career dreams as a child too. I wanted to be a model, because I wanted to be pretty like a model. I wanted to be a flying missionary to please my father—you see, it was not quite enough just to do missions. I also needed “save” (pun intended) people with my daring airplane recuses. And in moments of practical mindedness, I thought I should definitely be a “cleaning lady” (aka a housekeeper), because I was very good at cleaning, which was a way of life and survival in my home. But “teacher” was a persistent calling, so I followed in my teacher-mother’s footsteps AND tried to satisfy paternal aggrandizement by becoming a professor.

It occurred to me recently that I have actually been teaching now for nine years. I’ve also discovered in the last few years that I like teaching. And no, I didn’t always know this. I always wanted to like teaching; and sometimes I was sure that I did indeed like teaching. But non-teaching associated trauma during my early career and my social anxiety also sometimes made (and makes) the process excruciating. (Neo-liberal and late-capitalist academic practice, politics and policy don’t help either.) Part of discovering my love for teaching and moving through my anxiety involved reconsidering my “ideals” of teaching, which were numerous and high minded.

Continue reading “Teacher Appreciation Week & Appreciating Teaching by Sara Frykenberg”

Teaching After the Getty Fire by Sara Frykenberg

This is the third year in a row that I will be writing about wildfires in California and their impact on me and my community.

This year, I don’t have any poetry.
This year, I’m not afraid.
This year, I’m angry. I am very angry. And again, I am awash in the (not so?) mundane concerns that surface in the wake of devastation. I am continually struck by this: the strangeness of the everyday next to the blackened hillside, the restricted access, and soot covered floors—the persistence and tremendous regularity, even normality of the everyday. Continue reading “Teaching After the Getty Fire by Sara Frykenberg”

What We Can’t See by Sara Frykenberg

As a professor, I find myself returning to a similar struggle again and again. I know what I know; and I know what I hope students will gain from the class, in terms of content knowledge, critical thinking, classroom community-making, etc. But often, I don’t know what they don’t know.

This might seem a silly kind of observation. No duh, Sara, you barely know this group of people. Also, this may seem an easy question to answer. And sometimes it is; and I do have part of the answer when I begin a class. My “Intro to Ethics” students, for example, will understand and be frustrated by the way people use the Bible to justify their own positions, but they usually won’t know the term “proof texting,” or easily understand “hermeneutics.” My “Women in Christianity” students will understand sexism and often, the idea of gender as a social construct, but they are usually unfamiliar with the dualistic gendering and ranking of larger social realities, like nature and culture, production and reproduction, etc.

There are obvious differences in academic training—that’s why I’m allowed to teach at a university after all. But I’m not really wrestling with what I can contribute in terms of content knowledge or historical/ theoretical contextualization. I think what I don’t know is what understandings of reality they bring into the classroom and what these realities have allowed them to see. Learning and/or teaching feminist theory and theo/alogy for the last fifteen years at least, I also often take my own reality for granted. I “know what I know,” after all—I just can’t always remember what it was like to learn it. And all of these classroom dynamics can make it harder to catch the realities we can’t yet know or can’t see. Continue reading “What We Can’t See by Sara Frykenberg”

Parenting with the ‘Same Words’ by Sara Frykenberg

Teaching and talking with my daughter, I find myself revisiting the subtle and not so subtle kyriarchial language in my own upbringing in ways that I do not when speaking to other adults with my very intentional and well-trained adult language. Parenting sometimes feels like a trip back in time where I remember and more readily feel my joy of singing particular songs or reading particular stories, simultaneously feeling my inner feminist and adult self cringe at the messages in too many of these stories.

Sara FrykenbergLast month I shared a lesson a student of mine taught me about subjugated knowledge and the colonized mind. This month, I would like to continue in a similar grain and consider how we share the practice of oppression through language, and particularly, as we teach language to our children. Working to counter kyriarchy in my parenting, I often find myself asking, what I am really saying, reading, or singing to my daughter?

I walk with my daughter almost every morning, and as new parents are often encouraged to do, I try to talk to her continuously about a variety of topics. While I do talk to Hazel about meaningful things, like my hopes for her, stories about her family, the joys of reading, etc.; most days my monologues are inspired by whatever we happen to walk by at the moment.

One morning we talked about the differences between fences, gates and walls, their purposes, and the different materials from which they are constructed—I was really reaching on this day. We repeatedly talk about the flora and fauna. I have discovered that there is what feels like an inordinate number of avocado trees in the say, six square blocks surrounding our apartment. How do the people who live here eat all of these avocados? Do they eat them? Do they let them rot on the tree? This seems like a terrible waste of avocados, though there is one home with a bin in the front yard with a sign that says “free avocados,” in which the homeowners leave the fruit for neighbors and passers by like Hazel and myself.

This may seem silly and often, the discussions are silly, but taking to heart what I have learned from liberative feminists, post colonial scholars, and semiotics, I also critically observe how and what I say. One day, trying to make it fun to point out different plants and bushes, I pretended to be an announcer for kind of a nature show. Somewhere in-between introducing the “the deadly oleander,” and “a lovely variety of cacti,” it occurred to me that I was actually engaging in a kind of trope for a travel narrative. It wasn’t that I was saying anything particularly oppressive or colonial; rather, I realized my tone, my ‘how,’ came from the stories of my own youth—it was a kind of cross between stories related to  “Dr. Livingston, I presume,” and Crocodile Dundee. Continue reading “Parenting with the ‘Same Words’ by Sara Frykenberg”

Grading in Purgatory? How about a Change of Scenery? (A Little Levity and Thought for the End of the School Year) by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergI am sitting on the patio in front of my apartment as I write this blog. It’s hot-ish and windy. Ventura is always windy. The jasmine vine in my garden (also known as my strip of dirt, or ‘the facilities’ for all neighborhood cats) is in full bloom and my potato bush is covered in purple flowers. When I planted this bush, that is now taller than my head, it was just a stick—a stick that can apparently become a tree-size monster; but, it is my favorite plant monster and it hosts the loudly buzzing, giant black bees that visit my home. No bees today though, just a badly needed change of scenery…

Many of the teachers and professors who read this blog can probably empathize with me when I say that I have been trapped in my office for weeks grading. The last day of classes this semester was Friday of the past week. I’m not quite sure how I managed to so fully and completely overestimate my ability to read, comment on and score hundreds of pages, but I did, and so, I am sentenced to ‘hard time’ at my desk. As the Arcade Fire song The Well and the Lighthouse goes, “I’m serving time all for a crime I did commit.”

My twin sister rubbed this in a bit. She called me as I sat in my office Monday morning after a long weekend of grading and asked me what I was doing. I told her, “grading,” and she promptly started laughing at me and bellowed, “You’re in purgatory!!” She continued to laugh for some time; and then proceeded to post references to purgatory on my Facebook page throughout the day. (Consequently, she later noted my lack of response to her posts. Of course, I had been too busy to reply—see above comments on overestimating, end of semester and grading.) Continue reading “Grading in Purgatory? How about a Change of Scenery? (A Little Levity and Thought for the End of the School Year) by Sara Frykenberg”

Women’s Christian Heritage by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsIt is difficult to carve out time in a course that covers Christianity from the past 2000 years to address material beyond the standard textbooks.  But yet, I must because the visual and material culture, the worship practices, and the daily activities of women and men who have called themselves Christians or followers of Christ throughout history also comprise the story of the Christian heritage.

Over the past several weeks, I have been developing material for a historical and theological survey course called “The Christian Heritage.” In the multiple sections of this course taught at my university, and I imagine similarly at schools across the country, students are assigned a course reader.  The reader we use is a collection of texts that have shaped the Christian faith from the first century to the 21st.  It is a good collection, and I have no objection to using it.  However, for the way I would like to teach the course, I will need to supplement the reader with other material.  I have two interrelated concerns: the reliance on texts as a way of determining theological history and the absence of women in that history before the medieval period (and even then the number of women included is small). Continue reading “Women’s Christian Heritage by Elise M. Edwards”

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