David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Yes, I Am Blind

August 28, 2021

I have been reading Lisa Feldman Barrett's How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain and am geeked by her premise that emotions are not hard-wired as most believe, but are actually constructed in the moment. (I know I am simplifying a complex argument. So sue me!)  The hypothesis resonates deeply with me on a personal level, but also at a professional level.  As we come into another academic year, I wish I could build the perfect teaching beast, the instructor who can take everything in the "classroom" as a moment to construct, not reconstruct, or even worse, deconstruct.  See Barrett's book for more on the theory, but allow me to turn to start-of-the-fall-semester poetry.

Experiential Blindness

As I head to my office,

Another academic year to bear,

Lord, do me a favor

And disable me

To go without (con)texts

And face my students

In real-time simulation.

A simple request

But you'll need to wipe my slate

Cleaner than those chalkboards

I washed in grade school,

And remove that emotional residue.

Every student's question,

Each one's absence

Of attention or attendance,

Is an opportunity to

Assess the singular circumstances,

Not associate or attribute

Anger, angst, or anxiety

To the ghosts of a past class.

Needs once seen as a cheat

May be their means to a seat

At the table later in life.

Emotions that academics scorn

And assert don't cloud our work,

Would have to be conceptualized,

Justified, as opposed to normalized.

All those inherited prejudices,

Boorish policies that we insist,

Might be removed along

With the barriers to access,

Progress, prowess, yes, success.


Barrett, Lisa Feldman. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life Of The Brain. Mariner Books. Boston. 2018.