Saturday, July 02, 2011


"Mighty Mississippi", oil, by Kristin Grevich
I grew up near a marvel of constant motion called the Mississippi River, and I realized, not long ago, that my teenage students are similar marvels. It’s interesting that we give a name to a river, as though it is a solid, static object that can be conveniently labeled and categorized, as though it is always the same, always just the old, unchanged “Mississippi River”, and not the always transforming, always newfangled phenomenon we know it to be. My students, too, have names -- Maria, Cooper, Kiona, Gaelen, and so on – as if they are packages of humanity that stay the same day by day and therefore can be easily classified and compartmentalized. In that way of thinking, the Mississippi is always just the same Mississippi, and Maria is always pretty much the same Maria. Of course, we know this is ridiculous, for we know that both rivers and kids are relentlessly changing phenomena, never the same from second to second. Rivers rush by us with their countless and ever-shifting currents, and my students’ lives flow past me with equally mystifying variableness. In a single 48-minute class, a zillion changes happen to each of my students – new oxygen, new cells, new blood, new thoughts, new feelings. It’s as if I’m standing on the banks of many human rivers, pretending they’re the same as yesterday, pretending their names capture their reality, pretending I can understand who and what they are – but knowing all along that they are as mystifying as the mighty Mississippi.

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