Another student did a long project on his time there, photographs of the equipment he still has stored, reproductions of the bracelets from his dead friends and photographs of him ready for combat, along with images of the person he is now, going to school, studying criminal justice. Each photograph was labeled with a fine-point magic marker which further clarified just when friends had died or that he was leaving for class. During critique other students argued whether he should pair the photographs about Iraq with those of his daily life now. They seemed to ignore the transitional group of images that tied the two sides of his experience together, but all were impressed with his work. He says that some days he can print for 4 hours, sometimes only 45 minutes. I've asked if I can show him to the Vet who runs the Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences, a poet, Kevin Bowen, but he had a hard enough time showing the work to a group he knows.
When he was starting the project, and I'd seen a bit of the work, I showed him the Dishwasher's blog since it seemed relevant to who he wants to be, the work he wants to do. And he sat there, scrolling down, reading the entries. Then I showed him Ontheverge, or On the Verge, to prove that the Dishwasher has a fine wife and life can be hard, but good. He wrote down the names of both blogs.....
A student in the 9 o'clock class, who is from Tibet, thinks that homeless men just say they are vets to get more sympathy. He said this to his friend, the one from Napal, who believed that the guy he photographed and talked to for so long was really a vet. I said that many vets end up homeless, but he wasn't very convinced.
Sometimes I get to talk with other faculty, like Taylor Stoehr who I just met. They tell me stories of students...as interesting as mine....it's been far more interesting, I think, to teach at a urban university, work with students whose parents probably haven't gone to college, or who are immigrants. Though teaching at MIT was far more prestigious, it was much too easy. Everyone was already programmed for success.
But I'm in despair about these classes. If I'd stayed around, not retired, I would have tried to keep the new kids on the block from cutting each class by 40 minutes, time I need so I'm not just working with the better students, so I could do more to help the ones struggling. I was programmed to two hours and twenty-minutes, had adjusted my skills to that amount of time. Now I feel like a failure and am, compared to what I used to be able to do.
But, as the Dishwasher would say, Nemaste.