The nuns

Sister Mary Stigmata never taught me.

I was just reading some fiction which featured an archetype that’s been in heavy rotation for at least half a century, and at most, a thousand years: The Evil Nun.

You all know The Evil Nun. She hits poor, defenseless, innocent children with rulers and singles them out for shame and humiliation. Her anger and frustration cause her to brand little girls as tramps and little boys as shifty truants. She’s violent. She’s mean. She’s ruined your formative years, and she’s been in more movies than Kevin Bacon. She’s appeared in The Blues Brothers and, in a slightly more nuanced incarnation, in Doubt. All of you – even if you never went to Catholic school, even if you aren’t Catholics, even if you’re a very peaceful Quaker who has no argument with anybody – you all shudder in her presence.

Except I’ve never met the Evil Nun in person. And I went to Catholic school. While I was there in the ’80s I met strict nuns. I met emotionally distant nuns. But never once did I meet The Evil Nun. Not once. And I feel like I’ve missed out on a great shared experience of 20th century Catholic school students. I really liked the nuns who taught me. What’s exciting about that? Continue reading


Me, planning next semester's syllabus.

It’s finals day here at Fort Davis. This means that although I don’t really have that many students this semester, I’m spending the day surrounded by final projects, two copies of my class’s final student newspaper, my attendance book, a collection of pens, two cold cups of coffee and random pieces of paper that have been living in my bag this semester.

I don’t post much about my job as an adjunct professor at a local community college, mostly because I don’t want the kind of trouble that comes from writing about the workplace online. But I don’t think any harm can come from posting my feelings about the end of the semester, which are always bittersweet.

On the one hand, the semester always ends exactly when it needs to. Right when the pressure is the highest, and people start getting the flu, and everyone’s motivation has flat-lined, bam! No more classes. We have finals and then we’re outta here! Woohoo!
On the other hand? I always end up missing my students. Especially the ones who are going off-campus for good, graduating or transferring from community college to a four-year institution. I’m happy for them, but I’m sad to see them leave.

I was unprepared for this feeling when I started teaching three years ago. When I was a college student my own reaction to the end of the semester was a big, unmitigated YAY! Granted, things were busier for me then –  I was taking five and six classes a semester, working two on-campus jobs and working as a college newspaper editor at the time. I used to say good-bye to my professors with abandon. I cut them loose the moment I walked out of the final. My thought was that they would never remember me anyhow – they had so many other people to teach, why would they remember who I was? Until I ran into a former prof and he remembered me. Moreover, he was pleased to see me and interested in what I’d done with my life. And now, when I run into former students, and they’re happy to see me, or when one of them emails me with a question, I find that I am always ridiculously pleased. If I knew what an awesome feeling it to be contacted by a former student, I would have contacted more of my teachers. Actually, it’s probably not too late for that.

All right. Enough blogging from me. Back to the finals. I’ll be writing more about teachers  – although not college teachers – tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’m writing about nuns.