Tag Archives: ENG5020

THE END IS NEAR, AND I WONDER WHAT IS TO COME . . .

Hey classmates,

Below is a description of my contribution to our anthology booklet: 

For the final project theme, stages of growth mixed with the messy humanness of life, I decided to write a short vignette that captures a loving moment between a great grandfather figure, who happens to be a WW2 veteran, and his silly, tomboy-ish, great granddaughter. There are multiple hidden life lessons found within this short vignette, without being explicitly forward about them. You have to read between the lines, noticing the small details of movement, thinking patterns, and physical gestures that ultimately link the hidden similarities between these two different generations. Curiosity and kindness wins above all else. As you read you will notice multiple lessons or themes found between the lines. 

So far, the story embodies these life lessons: growing through two different stages of life, and grieving the younger version of yourself, especially for those with a youthful, open mindset. The story also emphasizes, from the great grandpa’s point of view, the willingness to learn from those younger than you and how the body ages but the mind doesn’t. The mind continues to grow, if you let it. I also might write and add some poems at the end of the vignette from different perspectives, elucidating feelings and making life connections from these two characters, but from the lens of both of them in a different stage of life. Perhaps, the great granddaughter, Brooklyn, is a mature woman, with her own children, reflecting back on the life lessons her great grandfather taught her well after his passing. And for Captain Great Gramps, his perspective poem can take place amidst war, facing something beyond cruel and inhumane, and how he was able to emotionally digest and deal with it at that very moment in time. The short vignette is also open to edits and revision. I’m still thinking about if anything else should be added or if I should leave it be. We will see where the creative process takes this piece ~~ sometimes, things are best left as is. 

I hope at our next class meeting, we can take the time to share and read one another’s contribution pieces, offer feedback and/or advice, and assign roles to each other on how to specifically move forward with this project, without assigning ourselves too much work as there literally is a week left in the semester. But, I am beyond excited to see our work comes together as one piece! Hehehehe 🙂

XOXO, 

Francesca Di Fabio

Let Me Tell You Something About Myself . . .

Classmates, we have finally arrived at the final blog post!!! Sadness 

First off, I am so down for Michael’s idea – creating a curriculum that we have all dreamed of, or wished we had the opportunity to explore while in middle/ high school. In this course, we have read and talked so much about the problems in academia (specifically, teaching approaches); so, it would be cool to contribute ideas that pose as a solution to the notorious banking system of learning. Also, Rachel’s idea of putting our words and creativity into action is beyond beautiful. Something about making our art come to life is so intimate and special. I am certainly down for putting on a show  I also think Rachel’s idea would come with great comical, funny moments that we will never forget and will keep with us until we graduate from this program.

Last class session, two classmates had personally thanked me for sharing my story and journey with mental health. I didn’t realize how impactful my story was upon realizing that we all share a common denominator; we are all mentally ill *laughing emoji*. And this realization had me think back to my senior year of undergrad, when I happened to win the 2021 Stephen J. Haselton Memorial Endowment for Excellence in Scholarship for the Senior Seminar writing competition. It was not my idea to submit my piece; it was a professor of mine who urged me to, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful. My piece was titled, If I Were To Go Insane and was a fictional collection of short stories and poems of 40 pages that emphasized mental health, grief, guilt, loss, abuse, and sexuality – the epitome of realistic fiction. Inside If I Were To Go Insane, you’d find five short stories, each followed by a poem emphasizing the emotional appeal of that specific story.

I then started thinking a lot about the concepts of healing through writing, finding identity through emotional writing, and I could not help but think, what if we were to all write a short fictional story, that encompasses the very struggles of our lives and livelihood. And this struggle does not particularly have to be mental health related, but should be an event, life experience, or occurrence that altered the way you view life; something that humbled you. Something drastic, sensitive, deep, personal, spiritual, edgy, or high-strung. Go somewhere that you fear going. Tell us the story that has defined you to this very day. Tell us the story you thought you’d never share before. Because this is the human experience – a messy combination of emotions and the unknown. Each of us is a blessing to be read.

This project proposal leans more toward creative writing. But research can be embedded; I have not thought of exactly how just yet. Or, how this creative piece can be geared toward a more academic-writing lens. I’m willing to consider and hear ideas on how to integrate a research-based approach to a creative writing project (if research and data is something important to you). Perhaps, we could all work on an opening section that entails research on healing through writing and how trauma is the source of creativity. Or why is it that writers, actors, singers, comedians, etc., tend to have a source of trauma that essentially evoked their hidden talent?

Anyway, what I was imagining is that we all write a fictional story that comes from or is inspired by a real-life struggle that we have encountered: mental health, abortion, immigration, abuse, assault, cheating, betrayal, addiction, divorce, etc. Once we have all wrote our fictional, short story, we give our story to a classmate, (we swap papers) who will read it, digest the emotional appeal, and then write a poem that reflects the very emotions they had felt while reading it. An outsiders perspective on our most delicate selves. A poem of empathy and gratitude, elucidating the strength, grit, and pain we had not encountered ourselves yet felt so deeply while reading.

This project will be an emotional challenge on our frame of reference and will require the trust factor. The act of writing, and sharing your writing involves vulnerability, and to be openly vulnerable, especially around classmates you met three months ago, we need to wholeheartedly trust each other. I think this could be really fun, and an eye-opener to all those around us.

Let me know what ya think; I’m eager to know 

XOXO,

Francesca Di Fabio

The Many Voices of Trauma

Hello, fellow classmates ~~

!! WARNING !! This blog post covers very touchy subjects.

So, please read with caution and an open mindset. Thank you

If You’re Struggling to Write, Lead With Voice

 I’m going to start with this quote to explain why my blog post this week will not be as intellectually hearty and full of philosophical questions (I might take this statement back depending if I get into the groove of writing for this blog post): “I got an in-depth opportunity to explore voice when the volume and speed of mine began to slow down about a decade ago, staggering under the weight of fatigue and chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis” (Huber, 2022). The exact situation is happening to me. I have seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, and I can attest to the severe chronic pain and fatigue. Some days, the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are so loud that simply lifting my head off my pillow is like driving a car with a broken gas pedal. Last year I was in rehab, and then continued to push myself through any mental and physical symptoms of fatigue, ultimately ending up in the ER twice for several, day-long panic attacks. I am first-handedly feeling the wrath of my actions of last year. The volume and speed of my life right now is extremely slow; possibly even steers itself into reverse here and there, or whenever I encounter a slight scare. Imagine being stuck hearing the voices of panic-like thinking for over a week ~ TORTURE AT ITS FINEST ~.

Anyway, I often think back to the voices that led me to become hospitalized. Those voices often told me that I must keep going. To stop is a symptom of weakness. To rest is procrastination. To sleep in late is a symptom of laziness. Now that I’m on the coming down stage of the bell curve of a week-long panic attack, I understand that my notions of working, and relaxing come from my mother’s strict Sicilian upbringing that has leaked its way into my subconscious. Other lived experiences (like my learning disability) contribute as well, but I am not here to unpack my trauma, even though I’d love to (lol). I am here to discuss a writing phenomenon that popped up in my head while reading this week’s selections: Mental illness and Voice.

I have always struggled with the realization that I’m fully medicated now and might be for the rest of my life. Who am I without medication? Is this the real me? Is the ‘real me’ broken and in need of fixing? For years, I grappled with the question, who am I off my medications Vs. on my medications? While trying to dissect that internal question, I also tried to locate my ‘authentic’ voice somewhere in between the mix. The amount of shame after discovering that the anxiety-driven voice that result in lash-outs and crying fits are essentially part of my voice just like the very voice you hear in class or feel within my blog writing is indescribable. Without the anxiety-fatigue-depressive voices, would my resilience be the same? Would my drive to emotionally assist young kids in figuring out how their breath connects to their mind, body, and soul still stand? Would I be as emotionally sensitive to, and intellectually aware of myself and others around me?

Even when getting into the details of Sylvia Plath’s poem, a poet who evidently suffered from a mental illness (in my opinion), the concept of multiple voices, essentially there, to help define one authentic voice, came up in discussion. For instance, Huber even admits, “This comes up a lot: the idea of “voice” made of “voices” (Huber, 2022). This is a very meta-confusing concept that involves deep introspection and a good level of self-awareness. However, to have multiple voices is a war of the mind. And this phenomena in terms of writing should be discussed with sensitivity toward those who have lost the battle within and against their minds without fully understanding the ‘why’ – a sad reality I have seen all too much of. So, I think my mental illness(es) – PMDD, OCD, dyslexia (controversial as an illness but to me, any disability can make you physically and mentally ill), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and depression – are a separate wild, frantic, irritable, dull yet boisterous voice of itself that assists and navigates around the many other unidentified voices within my head.

Below are Reactions to Random Quotes:

Even the voice of this piece—the Voice that Loves Voice, I suppose—is one among several essaying voices. It has more of my speech in it, and gestures, and specifically the direct way I talk in the classroom, using shorter words and phrases and more images and some terrible mixed metaphors and similes” (Huber, 2020). THIS. THIS right here. A random stranger of an author just summed up the voice I use to teach (academics and yoga), the voice I use in the classroom as a learner, and the voice I – (I try my best to) use when talking with random strangers. The voice that loves voices – holy cow, I love it. This is the exact voice a perfectionist uses to mask the vulnerability around confrontation; therefore, we offer unlimited grace, kindness, empathy, and complete openness to whomever encounters our path, especially in a work or academic setting.

“In letting myself loose a bit, in looking for the weird voices in my own life and head and letting them out, I found new ways to say things and new perspectives on my life” (Huber, 2020). This is the exact reason to why I want to get into writing stand-up comedy. I have no idea how I will go about this but all I do know is that I have an ability to turn my animated self into a funny scene or demonstration. I would like to attend more comedy shows, and perhaps research any nearby writing workshop classes or local open mic sessions to get a feel for that ~ lifestyle ~. Dark humor – I’m talking an enormous amount of mass packed tightly into a tiny volume – type of dark. Dark humor is how I navigate life and living, and without it, I truly don’t know. I feel that dark humor has helped me cope with my anger and sadness in such a way that I can turn around and laugh about a situation rather than intellectualize the hell out of it.

I’ve been told I’m funny, and no, not just from my mom and closest friends (lol). Interestingly, my most recent uber driver and the latest Chinese delivery lady had both thanked me for making them laugh during their jobs. Apparently, I have a voice people often want to listen too, or at least are curious about, and I’m not sure if it’s the way I come off or speak openly about random topics that are on my mind. In rehab, three different co-patients had told me, in their own ways of course, that I have a powerful voice that moved them in session. Or that they specifically felt the pull and tug of their emotions whenever I speak up in group. I will never forget the one elder woman, who patted my back on her way out of group, and whisper-talked in my ear: “Your supposed to teach, darling; you have a special way of making people truly listen.” I still think about that complement and channel that energy when faced with anxiety-driven self-doubt or a severe case of writers block.

Sometimes, I think my deeply, weird voice cares too much about making others smile, and not so much myself. Hence why this quote made me pause with deep curiosity, “The Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin described “intonation” as “the point where language intersects with life” and Huber continues to explain that her ‘teaching’ voice often uses intonation or inflectional tones to physically connect with people, making her feel more confident and powerful. However, the arthritis-driven voice was used to “counteract [her] tendency to hide, [her] own desire to be agreeable or not offend, naming Pain Woman as a separate voice seemed to give [her] permission to channel something outside of [her] public mask” (Huber, 2020). I think mindfully noticing the different perceptions and perspectives of the world you narrate within your head, and slowly beginning to befriend and name them, rather than shame and judge them, may be the start to an answer to my many unsolved problems. Hey – Huber said it herself, “She pushes me to say what I think, to listen to the bold voice inside me, and then to follow that voice, to let it grow, to see it and understand it, and to feed it, knowing I can always switch to another one” (Huber, 2020). So, I say we start trying this voice naming thing ~~

Expressive Writing, Emotional Upheavals, and Health

“What is it about a trauma that influences health?” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). Let me tell you: EVERYTHING ABOUT TRAUMA INFLUENCES HEALTH. However, the only beautiful thing about trauma is that it is universal; everyone comes with their own package deal of family and personal trauma. It is trauma and suffering that connects human beings because without it, there would be no such thing as sympathy or empathy. And could you imagine living in a world absent of sympathy and empathy? I fear it’d be like living the Purge but just 24/7, everyday chaos.

There is certainly a scale to trauma being that some people have it worse than others; for instance, “the more extreme the trauma and the longer time over which it lasts are predictors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) incidence” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). However, it is important to not diminish your own trauma in the light of others because no other human being has lived your life with your exact biological genetic factors. The way in which we respond to the many triggers within our life are uniquely determined by our upbringing, support system, genetics, and our ability to love and empathize throughout the hardships.

Sometimes, we don’t have control over the way in which we react or respond because of a mood disorder, PTSD, or unresolved trauma that floats to the surface at the worst, unexpected times. Have you ever heard about those horrific postwar psychological stories among Vietnam veterans? It could be a loud, rumbling thunder that jerks the vet’s unconscious body awake in a state of fright to discover he’s hovering over his wife’s sleeping body, gripping her neck until her face turns purple. Suddenly, BOOM, his traumatized unconscious mind wakes up his conscious mind before it’s too late, and now he’s ashamed of what he’s capable of doing without any sort of control. That is what a physical response to trauma may look like for some veterans.

For those who were neglected, abused, or abandoned in childhood may have a total opposite reaction to bodily fright. Those with anxiety may throw up or pick at their skin because “the unexpected events are generally associated with cognitive disruption including rumination and attempts to understand what happened and why” (Pennebaker and Chung, 2). Sitting in anxious thoughts leads to terrible physical symptoms. Those with depression sleep the day away to avoid the traumatic spiral of negative thoughts that become overwhelmingly unbearable. Those who have faced years of discrimination, or a degree of hate crimes may shy away in public or trust those who only look like themself, which you can’t blame them for selective choosing. Trauma is certainly shameful; hence why many refuse or claim to see no reason for therapy. I don’t where I’m trying to take this rant-of-a-blogpost, but I suppose to claim we all have a degree of unhealed trauma hovering over our shoulders, which is a weird, disturbing yet calming truth to digest.

Oh, and I take my opening statement back because I happened to write way more than I expected ~~ LOL

XOXO,

Francesca Di Fabio

IT’S A BLESSING, NOT A BURDEN . . . DUH!

Fellow classmates – we back again!!

The combinations of the selected readings were an emotional journey in itself – from an overview of the origins of African American Language (AAL), then to an in-depth analysis of how society views dialects other than “Standard” American English (SAE) as lesser than, to how racist pedagogical and linguistic ideologies have seeped its way into our expectations for immigrants, and students’ who’s at-home language differs from English. Again, what I’ve gathered from the selected readings is that remaining uninformed about linguistic differences and the complexity involved, in my opinion, is a form of avoidance to change.

There were several key points brought up amongst the authors on how to effectively notice racist language, and how to counteract linguistic prejudice within the classroom and beyond. Although somewhat aware that African American Language is linguistically a language of its own with rules and conventions, I must have forgotten about the emotional pain tied to identity and self that is forcibly stripped away from this community (and others alike). Emotions come from lived experiences and personal encounters, and the debate on whether African American Language is an independent form of spoken and written communication is an argument I cannot personally identify with through an emotional standpoint of frustration. But is certainly an argument that I’m willing to become more educated on to initiate my own version of revolutionary pedagogy toward resistance (Baker-Bell, 2). I feel the need to commence my own revolutionary pedagogy of resistance. A resistance where I search for and read about peoples’ lives and personal stories that are opposite of my own, so that I can begin to understand the emotional injustices that define their sole purpose of existing. Or understand the cause they feel an overwhelming need to challenge and fight against in this very lifetime.

In Steven Alvarez’s essay, Official American English is Best, he mentioned a point on immigrant assimilation that supports the white supremacist credo against bilingualism and plurilingualism, ultimately revealing that “U.S citizens should not be inconvenienced with the burden to speak, read, or write in languages that are not English” (Alvarez, 93). I have a problem with the use of the word burden in that sentence to describe how “problematic” assimilation is for American English speakers. The point above speaks volume to Western privilege and ignorance. The point above is a perfect example of a thought process that avoids change. The narrative is twisted within the quote above, like how Baker-Bell noticed the unfortunate patterns of mainstream media outlets portraying the minority victim as the criminalized, aggressor (4). We all hold internal, preconceived prejudices and perceptions about the world around us; however, it becomes an “us” problem (or an “I” problem) when we let our preconceived prejudices turn into tangible frustration, hate, or avoidance. The tangible avoidance here is domination and elimination of all those who don’t speak fluent “Standard” American English.

 The burden to encounter and navigate other languages is funded by ignorance and is absent of empathy. I think back to our class conversation we had after Cindy’s discussion lead on grieving a language that was once spoken within your family lineage, or even household – a concept I’ll never truly grasp but one that hurts my heart. Western society, backed by U.S. History with roots as deep as political imperialism and slavery, has become numb to how attitudes impact family dynamics not of their own race, religion, culture, or language. As if having to mentally translate a Spanish construction sign on your drive to work is much more frustrating than noticing how your mother’s Dominican dialect has lost its cultural flavor over the many years of assimilation or listening to your Nona’s heavy Sicilian accent for the last time because no other family member can speak it with such cultural authenticity.

Also, as an educator, I see so much beauty in language because it’s how we communicate with one another. When your dog’s ears fall flat with a low, monotonous – Roouuff sound, you know he’s sad or lonely. When your baby whimpers around 12 o’ clock and slams their tiny fists on the table, you know they want lunch. I am not comparing the language styles of a baby or a dog to non-native English speakers. Rather, I am proving a point on patience, and physical energy transmission. A dog and a baby don’t know “Standard” American English, but we still comprehend and offer unconditional love. We form our own language of understanding through trial and error. Many people disengage from or ignore other languages because they fear that they may offend their language in attempting to speak it or translate it. I tell myself not to be afraid, because they are humans too, who would probably prefer our attempt of communication rather than looking at them all befuddled. Language of all kinds help create and define the human experience. So, how rude of some to not even attempt to understand or learn more about the other languages that surround them. It’s their loss, though because they will only have effective, meaningful conversations with those who look exactly like them, and that is a very limiting lifestyle. Instead, I’d like to think of this so called “burden” as a wonderful blessing.

Oh – Change, Change, Change . . .

~~~~Anotha week, anotha blog post ~~~

Classmates! I hope all is well with you!

PART 1:

Ahhh ~~ Another chapter from Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by Bell Hooks. One of my favorite readings from this course thus far! In my first blog reaction, on the introduction and first chapter, I talked a lot about Hook’s trauma in learning and academia and the unfairness of it all. I was angry yet inspired by her story of learning as she put her academic oppression into research and action. And, in Chapter 3, we get further insight into Hooks’ research, the seminars held for professors, and her findings and observations from suggesting the idea of changing the curriculum and teaching practices. What I found most interesting was the resistance and lack of appreciation for ethnic minority cultures from academic professors. The unwillingness to accept change in academia seemed absurd to me. I get it – change is scary and uncomfortable. No one likes any form of change because it requires new perspectives, new insights, adjustments to routine, and an overview of processes and patterns.

With change, comes discovery. Unfortunately, many of us fear to discover, because what is found cannot be unseen, and this can refer to literally anyone or anything, and can be taken literally or figuratively. What shocked me most were the many professors who had to “unlearn racism to fully appreciate a democratic-liberal arts learning experience” and their inability “to cope effectively with so much difference” within their classrooms because aren’t educators life-long learners? (Hooks, 39). Isn’t that the very purpose of being an educator? – to do the difficult work of discovery and bestow such knowledge onto the next generation? Isn’t being a life-long learner the teacher’s version of a standard professional oath?

Once I graduated with my Education degree, I became a life-long learner. I pledged (to myself as a future educator) to never become too emotionally attached to any of my beliefs or constructed perceived preconceptions of reality because I’d then be limiting my potential to understand all those who do not live mylife. Everyone has a story, and all stories have an antagonist or some form of an “enemy.” For hook’s, her enemy was the oppressive nature of white supremacy leaking its way into her learning experience. For me, my enemy is my neurodivergent self. Although an enemy of mine, my anxious lens is a hidden strength as well. I think what Hooks has done is commendable – to study the enemy in such a way that helps understand their thinking processes, which to me, is the only way to educate others on how not to become the enemy themselves. Perhaps, that’s why I’m an intellectualizer – trying to understand myself to learn how to effectively cope with life and all the forms of learning that takes place during a human’s lifespan.

Anyway, I hope research on liberal-democratic learning continues within the fields of Education and Writing Studies because the system is broken. For some reason, many students feel they can’t use their authentic voice at school, and I’m referring to both writing and speaking. With that being said, I want to try and answer this quote: “What does it mean when a white female English professor is eager to include a work by Toni Morrison on the syllabus of her course but then teaches that work with out ever making reference to race or ethnicity?” (Hooks, 38). It simply means that this professor shows interest in the idea of diversity but continues to hide behind her veil of truth to avoid discovering the many truths that differ from her own. And, if any student were to ask her, “Why don’t we read more literature from Hispanic, Asian, or any other ethnic authors?” She can pull out her safety net (AKA the syllabus) and point to Toni Morrison’s name and say, “Look! We are!” without really addressing the issue at hand. And, to me – that is the definition of laziness.

Xoxo,

Francesca Di Fabio

_________________________________

PART 2:

From what I gathered from Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva, is that writing tutors (like educators and professors) must do the individual inner work and research to assist diverse learners in their college writing centers. I noticed many similarities between this reading and that of Bell Hooks’, the underlying commonality being adjusting expectations in writing, and to adjust expectations, we need to undergo a process of change. Specifically, by understanding the cultural differences between the composing process of ESL and NES students.

We talk a lot about the importance of voice in this course, as many of our assigned readings reflect the research on this controversial problem area. From reading literature on voice, to attempting to analyze my own voice, I’ve noticed that voice in writing encompasses everything that helps defines us. And it would be silly to say that our ethnicity, race, and cultural upbringing does not help define us? If researchers in Composition and Writing Studies want to argue if the idea of voice in writing even exists, then they should take a good look at the writing struggles of ESL learners, as it has been proven that every culture comes with rhetorical strategies and exceptions in writing. I’d like to put some emphasis on this quote, “With our heightened awareness of multiculturalism, we are also more aware of cultural preferences that are reflected in writing” (Harris and Silva 527). Such cultural preferences, if not understood, can be looked upon as weaknesses rather than just differences, which will only further the damage to the ESL student’s self-esteem.

So, I’m going to bring up the idea of change again. From both readings, I’ve gathered and concluded that learning needs to change. I know for some – many probably, learning has never been an issue. But learning is certainly as issue for American minorities, those from other countries, and those with disabilities. Perhaps, if you do not fall into one of those categories, you’ve never really had to think about all that desperately needs to change within the learning processes of the American Education System. A thought process that avoids change because, in this instance, you never desperately needed change in learning. And, this type of avoidance thinking is not your fault, nor anyone’s fault in particular. There are many topics of injustice that need change, but I could not tell you much about them, simply because those topics are not my story or truth to tell. I’ve never experienced the need of change in many areas of my life. ~~ I suppose change comes with the realization of privileges and advantages in one’s life ~~

Xoxo,

Francesca Di Fabio