Arrivals from Unexpected Places

I’m often asked what I do for a living. “I’m a teacher of writing,” I say. That’s what it’s turned out to be. There’s a freshness that arrives when you know what you are, who you are. My wife, Nina, chimes in: Why don’t you ever say you’re a professor?

The culture is large and powerful, and always challenging notions of who you think you are. In New York City Public colleges and universities, and in New Jersey’s, I was Doctor. Doctor Vila. Too presumptuous, but I learned essential in a world where signification builds street cred. In urban educational environments the code of the streets applies.

In private schools, Professor is customary, a softer adjective that marks a rise, for the student and the teacher, in an invisible but powerful hierarchy of knowledge we assume can only be held in the hands of right-minded apostles. These heralds hold the rank of Professor. Professor is a place in the culture; an event, the donning of colorful robes that signify the anointed. In my mind, I’m far from that. Just the opposite. I tend to work as a counter weight to the significance afforded these distinguished vestments…

– Read more at: Community Works Journal

2 thoughts on “Arrivals from Unexpected Places

  1. Hi Hector,
    I am interested in your experiences over 35 years as a Professor/counterweight in guiding your students to be independent and expressive and what you have witnessed over the years with respect to how students learn and how that may have changed over the generations. You have seen many cohorts come and go but I am particularly interested in your thoughts and experiences with the apparent new challenge of teaching the so-called Net Geners that are certainly in your classes now. Having grown up with the digital world of the internet, social media, tweets and instant gratification do you find that the Net Geners have short attention spans, are shallow thinkers and have short memories such that long-term recall of learning is impaired? All these assumptions are postulated and are subject of further study, however there seems to be some consensus that they learn very differently than any other generation and that Professors/counterweights must engage them with new methods.
    You conclude by stating:
    “Young students today are resilient—but they have to be taken through their paces slowly and carefully”. ( do they have the attention span to do this?);
    “Young students today have had fears put into them. It’s our fault. Not theirs”. ( or is it also the fault of their digital world?) and ;
    “Young students today need safe places to explore themselves and others by reading, writing, dialog, and work, a coming into a practice, into the world, what you feel about what you know. (is this hampered now by the internet and social media influence). Doing pushes fear aside. And a new being is born. This is very hard”. (is it even more difficult now?)

    I have attached 3 short references that sum up the issue. I have not delved into this too deeply, but I would be interested in your thoughts and experiences. Perhaps a blog on this topic?
    Teaching and Learning with the Net Generation
    Counter article:
    Shallow Thinkers:


    • Hi Ken,

      Thank you so much for your feedback/comment. I’ll just say this, for now, that I will respond more fully, directly, here, for you and, as you suggest, perhaps with a longer piece. I’d add one more question or comment to what you ask: how have the changes in academia and education writ large, also affected the learning? (Because it has …)

      All the best, and thank you, again…


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