Monday, October 12, 2015


Every so often you get a gift, an unexpected little surprise that brightens your day and makes you feel the goodness buried under all the crap surrounding us.

This academic year got off to a tough start: the tragic death of a dear colleague, an accident on Seattle's Aurora bridge killing five students, the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon followed by three more: Northern State University, Texas Southern University and Pepper Tree Elementary. All on the same day.

In thirty years of college teaching I've never kept my classroom door locked. For the past two weeks I have. My students are as wonderful and eager to learn English as always. They come from worlds full of violence and struggle to understand the violence in this land that offers a safe haven from the hell they know. I struggle with them to understand the insanity of this violence. And we practice appropriate campus safety and disaster procedures.

I love teaching. I do not love this fear. And I am incensed by the suggestion that I and others in my profession should be packing guns to protect ourselves and our students.

When insanity seems to reign, it's the small gestures that matter most. At a division meeting, a colleague pulled out her phone. "I've got something to show you," she said. Tears welled. Tears that had no place at all. Tears that had little to do with the photo she showed me and more to do with the gesture itself. "Can you send it to me?" I managed.

Later that day I found this in my inbox:

Hi Arleen,
Gabbana is a big fan of your books!

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