Life Rants

Advice from the Bard

“The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” –William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

May I suggest this thought applies so very well to that noble profession, that (and I quote) “work of heart,” also known as teaching?  Though lacking in the poetic elegance of Shakespeare, I stand by my statement.

With a new job this year, a large percentage of my responsibilities has involved teaching those tenderest of college students who (among other gender identities) are not girls, not yet women:  first years.

And I barely remember being a freshman–not, as you may imagine, because I spent the year on a months-long bender, but because I spent that year (as I spent all of my college years) intensely ignoring my symptoms of social anxiety and depression.

I can remember my poor, poor college instructors who tried so hard to encourage me to participate, recommended me for a job at the writing center, held one-on-one conferences outlining plans for me to speak up in class.  And those who, perhaps simply to move discussion along or out of their own discomfort, called on me in class without knowing the immediate panic I would feel as I strung together an incoherent jumble of words.  It was so much easier for me to write, to take tests, to read chapter after chapter, than to learn to speak in class or make small talk with my peers (which I of course had no idea I was supposed to be learning).

Now this is the kind of thing students can get support for, and I’m sure it was then.  But I wasn’t going to do that most shameful of all step that akin to a confession that I wasn’t really supposed to be there:  ask for help.

For a long time, I thought things would have been different if just one instructor showed some compassion.  They did–but I didn’t recognize it because I needed to show compassion to myself.  I did eventually go to the counseling center, and I learned what a gift it was to enter a space where I always had an attentive listener, where what I said mattered.

Another piece of my college experience that affected me unexpectedly was my campus job, which I still wish I had gotten sooner.  Rejection’s a bitch at any age, isn’t it?

I had always wanted to work in libraries, so it perhaps wasn’t too much of a shock that I loved my job in the library.  Beyond the work that I did and the slightly stern but calm environment of the 7-story building, the job was much more than the shelving or pamphlet binding I did.  It was a place where people were happy to see me, grateful for my help, and always said thank you (if you ever supervise college students, the extreme gratitude for common courtesies will make so much more sense).

Now that my job is at least to some extent being an instructor, I can appreciate how those silences in class can be crushing.  I understand how frustrating it can be when those really smart students with a lot to say refuse to utter a goddamn word (a lot of them women, first-generation college students, of racial minorities).  And I really, really get how making a mistake can be such a great learning experience, though it may not feel like it at the time.

I don’t have words of wisdom for students, and I definitely don’t have advice for teachers.  The only thing I can say is if you’re in college, go to that fucking counseling center.  You have no idea what a beautiful thing it is to be able to take those services for granted until you’re paying $50 or more every time you want to speak to a counselor or how difficult it can be to schedule those sessions when you’re working full-time.

As for teaching…there’s a reason this meme was created.

Featured image by Marco Secchi on Unsplash

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a teenage girl looks at a poster on her wall that marks progress towards her mother's bail, which is currently at the $0 mark
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Deidra and Laney Rob a Train, or: Trainspotting 3

Rounding out the latest month of Blog Free or Die Hard is another Netflix original, selected entirely on its own merit.  And not at all because it was so easy to find and stream on both sides of the pond.

The Film:

Deidra and Laney Rob a Train

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

Deidra and Laney are teen sisters who act like parents to their younger brother Jet, pick their mom up from work, and try to find ways to keep the family afloat financially.  The 2 sisters are managing to keep scraping by until they find their mom having a very public meltdown at work with screaming, the police dept, and destruction of expensive Good Buy property involved.  Through bad luck and shady insurance practices, her impulsive mistake is considered an act of domestic terrorism (WTF) and bail is set much higher than the family can afford to pay.

two teenage girls and a younger boy face their mother across the table in a visiting area in prison
All seem like appropriate “Mom is in prison” faces.

After years of hard work and stress, their mother Marigold is quite relieved to relax in prison.  Adulting is hard, man, and Deidra seems to be a more natural head of the household.  This feeling, of course, is not shared by the rest of the family, who can’t find the money to pay the bills, let alone bail or Deidra’s imminent college expenses.   It looks like college may no longer be an option as Deidra misses class and college deadlines to manage things at home and come up with ways to earn quick cash.

Meanwhile, Laney is having a miserable time at school as she has been selected to compete in a beauty pageant (that appears to replace actual class…?) against her best friend.  Her friend Claire, feeling threatened by Laney’s participation, sets out to make her life miserable.

a woman and a teenage girl drink tea at a table, with the word "Etiquette" on the wall behind them
I would watch the hell out of pageants if there were a competitive tea-drinking round.

After much time spent stressing, Deidra gets an idea from the rather shady men in (and absent from) her life.  Her father, Chet, who prides himself on knowing when the family doesn’t need him, is a train mechanic.  He obliviously explains how modern-day train robberies happen, not realizing he is providing a catalyst for Deidra’s plan.  When Deidra’s ex mentions his side hustle selling just about anything he can get his hands on, the pieces fall into place and a crime spree is about to begin.

Both Deidra and Laney are in on the plan, and the two sisters become closer than ever.  However, tensions are high as Deidra’s dream of college seems to be slipping away, Laney pins her hopes on the pageant yet feels very alone, Child Protective Services suspects Deidra isn’t cut out to be the head of the household, and the fuzz is catching on to the robberies.

To everyone’s surprise, their father steps in to cover with CPS and do what he does best—plan petty crimes and destroy evidence.  This may be too little too late, as a persistent railroad security employee, Truman, is determined to crack the case.  Shit hits the fan when Truman puts 2 and 2 together on the night of the pageant, and Chet decides to take off.

a teenage girl stands next to a man as they look at a fire in a trashcan
Also a convenient way to destroy evidence of all of those animals I tortured…

How can this possibly end well for our titular train-robbing teens?  You know the drill.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Largely because Deidra and Laney are so cute and incredibly real.  I could especially relate to Laney re: awkward/insecure teen years…and, you know, the whole beauty pageant scene (lol).

The acting is convincing even if the characters aren’t always–Deidra’s guidance counselor being presented as sympathetic while pushing her own agenda over Deidra’s best interests really grated on me, as well as Chet playing the role of dirtbag with a heart of gold father.

This film has a lot of heart, but some of its sweet moments are emotionally manipulative AF.  It suffers from an uneven tone, simultaneously attempting to tackle serious issues while offering soothing reassurances to the viewer that it will all be okay.  The film frequently undermines its own ideas, and wraps things up much too neatly for my tastes (even though I was rooting for our leading ladies the whole time).

There is quite a lot of consideration of fate vs. free will throughout, which remains persistently upbeat.  This is one of my major beefs with the film, as it ultimately seems to reinforce the narrative that hard work and individualism pay off.  Though Deidra and Laney resort to robbing trains, it’s emphasized that their resourcefulness, determination, and clever planning earns them opportunity.  Am I bumming you out?  I sense that I’m bumming you out.

Would Christa ride the rails or take a bus instead?  Find out by reading her review here!