Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Slice of Life: Be Careful of We

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

Opening note: Last week I wrote about personal pronouns, and I will reference them at the end of this post. 

Over the weekend, I picked up Shawna Coppola's new book, Writing, Redefined. I keep meaning to read it, and I had some free time. However, I didn't get far. In her introduction, she mentioned Ava DuVernay's documentary, 13th, and here's what Shawna said: (if you haven't seen it), "please cancel all plans, put your phone on silent mode, and remedy the situation immediately (xxi)."

So I did. I had just watch When They See Us, another work directed by Ava DuVernay, so I was especially intrigued. That series had been incredibly hard for me to watch, especially the final segment, but it has stayed with me, and I've been convinced more than ever that any and all work I am doing along the lines of equity is vitally important.

13th addresses many aspects of the inequities of incarceration, and the stories and statistics are devastating. I watched with a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach, my own privilege pounding, my lack of awareness and ability to overlook inconvenient truths and events pounding as well. 

At our equity council meeting on Thursday night, I brought up the movie with one of the facilitators who had also been at the conference I wrote about last week, hearing the same message I heard and wrote about insofar as personal pronouns are concerned. 

I brought up 13th with her, and she had also seen it. "It's pretty powerful, right?" she said. 

"How are we not talking about that movie more?" I said to her.

She and I had talked about the importance of we versus I as well, and she touched my shoulder. "Careful of we," she said.  

Point taken!  need to figure out how to know better, see more, join the conversations that are happening about the layers and layers of inequity. 

I'm trying.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Slice of Life: Wondering What "We" Really Means

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

At a recent conference, the presenter invited participant response, and as one man spoke, the presenter must have been listening hard.

"You used the word 'we' four times in your comment," he reflected.

I thought about that observation as I walked later that afternoon, but I thought about it lots more the next day when the presenter, Derick Spaulding, dug into what we mean when we use the plural pronoun as opposed to the singular pronoun. Let me write that differently: What do I mean when I use the plural pronoun as opposed to the singular pronoun?

Since I have increased my awareness of this pattern, I'm not sure it's always for inclusiveness. I find myself using the plural as I work with teachers. "When we ____"---- something like that. What do I mean by this? Is it a softer way of saying "You should?" Maybe. Or a way of saying "I do this, but you don't?" Maybe. I don't think there's one translation, and I don't think the connotations are always negative. But it's something else to think about in this complex process of teaching and learning.

Thank you to Derick Spaulding whose many points have pushed my thinking and have stayed with me in the work I continue to try to do better.