Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Hunger Games Thanksgiving


          Last weekend I went to the movies and saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Now, on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, as I come off a turkey and stuffing induced coma, I find myself a little disconcerted by the juxtaposition of a gluttony-fueled holiday and a movie about starving kids killing each other.
          I first read the The Hunger Games Trilogy about a month before the first movie came out. Although I had heard a lot of people talk about the Hunger Games, I was initially quite opposed to reading the books; the concept of kids killing each other in a reality-show format did not seem like something that I wanted to read. Then I was lent a copy of the book and I ended up getting hooked, primarily because of the strength of the main character Katniss. So I finished the series and went to the movies. And although I enjoyed both the books and the movies, I find some of the media sensation around the series to be a little off-putting. 
           The Hunger Games is a story about the divide between the upper-classes and lower-classes, with the upper-classes being represented by the opulent and decadent Capitol residents. And yet, the predominant advertising that I see around me is CoverGirl’s Capitol Beauty Line.  According to CoverGirl, the Capitol residents, who cheer on the contestants and glamorize the ‘fight-to-the-death’ brutality of the Hunger Games, are the trendsetters I should be emulating.  
          Add into that the craziness of Black Friday shopping, the massive quantities of Thanksgiving leftovers that I am still consuming, and I find the result to be a little unsettling. Perhaps I’ll forget about all of this strangeness as I head into the holiday season, distracted by the holiday deals around me and by the bustle that marks this season. Maybe I’ll buy the sparkly nail polish, eat the Hunger Games inspired Subway offering, and fork over money for merchandise, all in the name of capitalism. 

          Or shall I say Capitol-ism?

Saturday, November 9, 2013


“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Maya Angelou

          In the course of my lifetime, I have failed many times. I’ve changed career paths multiple times, lost friendships, burnt bridges, and failed to meet deadlines.
          Right now I am in the beginning months of a new job as a high school teacher, with a teaching-load that seems almost insurmountable. Everyday, I have to teach three classes of anatomy and physiology, two classes of AP Biology, and one research class. I am responsible for planning lessons, coming up with activities, and grading. In short, I am overworked and overwhelmed, to the point that simply doing a mediocre job is leaving me on the verge of burn-out. Perhaps, in time, I will become a good teacher. But for now, I am not. I am, quite simply, a mediocre teacher, perhaps even a teacher edging into failure. 
          I see a similar parallel in some of my own students. I teach AP Biology to a group of very high-achieving tenth-graders, many of whom have spent their lives getting A’s and being told they are special. I am required to teach biology at a college level, which means that I have to cover the material at a faster and more detailed pace than what my students are used to. At their age, my class represents my student's first real foray into the demands of college-level work. 
          Some of my students have risen to the challenge while others are struggling to keep up. Unfortunately, some of the struggling students are starting to lash out at me. And although I remind my students that hard work is essential to success, some of them simply aren’t putting in the necessary time, instead creating flimsy excuses for their poor performance. 
          Failure – and our response to failure – is what defines us. Failure is what spurs us to move on, to try harder, and to change. Failure is the point at which we adapt and become stronger. Or rather, failure is an opportunity to adapt and become stronger. 
          I wish that I could tell my students the importance of learning to fail. Even if I did, I am not sure that they would listen. I suppose that is a lesson that they will have to learn on their own. 
          Even if learning that lesson requires failing first.