Forgive me, dear reader(s), for my absence; as I noted in an earlier post, I’ve been busy selling a house (which we sold in only about 2 weeks after putting it on the market ourselves), moving into a new house (which is bigger and only one story), and preparing for where I am currently – the Teaching East Asian Literature in the High School conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. So far, the week has been amazing, and I have learned sooooo much about East Asian history and literature.
But beyond all of the very interesting (and frequently hilarious) discussions we’ve had in the workshop itself, I am thankful for the opportunity to connect with teachers from all over the United States: from Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and a host of other states. The group I’m with is incredibly well-experienced (with many teachers having over 20 years of experience – I’m the least experienced teacher here), incredibly well-traveled (I think I might be one of only a few who has never gone abroad), and so incredibly witty. Perhaps the best conversations have happened outside of the workshop, with dinners at many of the fine establishments around Bloomington. (By the way, for those who have never been, IU has a gorgeous campus. Go see it sometime if you have the opportunity.)
The conversation that I just came from, however, was perhaps the most awe-inspiring conversation I’ve ever had. One of our lecturers is a professor of East Asian language and literature at a Midwestern school (I’m not sure if I can really give more specifics in deference to the individual’s wishes) who also happened to be present in Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989. The details given about the protests leading up to the massacre, the massacre itself, and what happened to this individual afterwards (including arrest and imprisonment for 3 months) were simply unbelievable. There was a group of the teachers that went to lunch with this lecturer and discussed China more broadly, and it was absolutely…I don’t know that I have words left to describe it. It is one of those conversations I will not quickly forget, and one that I hope to share with others.
This are the moments that I love as a teacher: learning moments. I knew about the massacre, why it started, what occurred, and so forth. But I didn’t know how to explain to my students (who present on Tiananmen Square in my senior world lit course) the human impact of this horrible tragedy and really what it says about the Chinese government – and perhaps worse, what current Chinese college students say about it. (The lecturer told us that one such group of students claimed that the government had to stifle the protests to retain stability and that his/her memories of the massacre must be the result of brainwashing. I think a lot of jaws dropped at that.)
I will have many more things to bring to the table this coming year because of this workshop, and I am so glad that I sacrificed a little bit of time – and a little bit of time with my family specifically – to come and do this. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.