Monthly Archives: August 2014

Lifting Heavy Things

I moved to Ohio just over a year ago. If you are a dedicated blog reader you will have noticed that it has not been the year I expected, but it was the year I had. In the process of returning to what I hope will eventually be a complete restoration of health, I have tried many things. I use my lamp (normally for seasonal affective disorder) even in the summer, take fish oil, eat berries and leafy greens and strength train. Some of these might be superstitious. The fish oil comes from Aldi and although it smells like fish I am skeptical of its capabilities. Others really work. That would be strength training. 

By that I mean lifting heavy things. Before I left Toronto I started cross-fit, and even found a great gym when I moved to Ohio. Not as good as Auxiliary Crossfit in Toronto, but almost. It was pretty great (Crossfit Findlay). I would recommend crossfit to anyone – but only if there are good coaches – not the kind who encourage puking at the end of a workout (yep, went to one of those in Ohio). When the gym I had found here went to a model where I would have to go three times a week, I decided that I could just no longer swing it. I just don’t like driving that much. I tried others, and it just wasn’t working out. So I decided to use the nice gym on campus. If there were a private gym that was half as nice that I wouldn’t have to drive to, I would gladly become a member, but there isn’t, so, I make do.

Now that I don’t do cross-fit I don’t do as much high intensity training as I did before, but that is probably ok. Since I began re-teaching myself how to jog, that’s enough intensity for me. Other problems that come up by using the campus gym- the students select the music, so sometimes it’s country, and other times it’s questionably appropriate hip hop with anywhere from a few words to half the song bleeped out. Working out there also provides ample opportunities for hilarity when students dance-lift to songs they like (This has only happened once). Needless to say, I always have my podcasts as backup. It has about 20 squat racks, and I rarely have to use one that I don’t like. After asking students when no one was in the gym in a quiz that would test their time-telling skills in Spanish, I was also able to ascertain when a good time would be to go to the gym. So I go. It is probably the most empowering project I have ever begun AND it keeps away the awful headaches and chronic knee pain that is always around the corner in danger of returning. Since my job is normally only in my head (writing, prepping, grading), I think it’s important to do something that uses the other parts of myself. It also helps me be more aware of where I am and what I am doing in the classroom. Questions I now ask myself: Am I sitting too much in my office? Apparently it will kill me, so I should do less of that. 

I am a goal oriented person so I have some of those goals… but every time I reach a new max rep or weight I just look at some male student athlete warming up with more than my max and I remember that I do this because I want to. 

My Real Teaching Philosophy

School starts on Monday. There is a lot to be discouraged about. The country where I live has proven its true colours. It is not doing well on any front I care about. Cases in point: Ferguson. Blaming the victim for sexual assault. Interning children. Buzzwords of all kinds. All this influences how I interact with students and colleagues and people blaring country music from a truck while I am trying to jog while listening to a charming British lady telling me to keep going (This is the NHS Couch to 5k podcast.)

In spite of all this, I must wake up each day. Since I have a job, I must work. Since I am a conscientious person, I must do this work well.

Over the years I have developed a statement of teaching philosophy that can be distilled as the following: I teach Mexican literature and culture, and, more broadly, Hispanic literature, culture and Spanish language, so that my students can learn about another culture, learn what it is like to be a person who does not understand what is happening, to learn from one another in a community, that can then transform its context.

In reality this involves understanding students who are unfailingly polite, and yet, who I do not understand. They like sports and music (including the aforementioned country) and have, shall we say, misgivings about latino people and undocumented workers. So I explain that when the factories went to Mexico, and the rust belt, became, well, the rust belt, the Mexicans were not better off. And to try, somehow, to put my research about repression – when it overwhelmingly affect the bodies of already marginalized people – and the potential for transformation, into practice.