Posted in Life Experiences

Berry Rome-ing

I drove up to North Georgia last weekend to visit my undergraduate alma mater, Berry College and the city of Rome.

And look at this pretty Roman lady I ran into:

I hadn’t visited Rome in years, but I knew my first stop (since lunch time loomed) had to be the Partridge Restaurant on Broad Street downtown.

I loved this restautant as a student. (Would it still be as good???)

They serve up the southern cooking family style. Well actually Kyra Sedgwick from TNT’s The Closer does! Look!

Not only did she have the physical resemblance, but my incredible waitress sounded just like the Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson character, if not a tad more Southern. Her real name is Wilma Temples, and I LOVED her.  When she asked me if I liked the fried chicken,

(now that’s a piece of fried chicken)

and I told her that yes, it was delicious, she clapped her hands in delight.

What an incredibly tasty meal!

(Wait, look, there she is again, right behind me.)

But on to Berry College I stufflingly (for this post, let’s pretend that’s a word) went. Next stop: Oak Hill, the antebellum family home of Berry Founder Martha Berry.

And the backyard:

My childhood home doesn’t quite look like Martha’s:

What a wonderful feeling to drive through Berry’s main gate again, The Gate of Opportunity.  And at nearly 30,000 acres, Berry College boasts the world’s largest campus.

Ridiculously silly video introducing Dana Hall (toward the end I got distracted by students who yelled at me from their car):

I somehow managed to convince an RA to let me into my former dorm, Dana Hall and found my old room, #235.

I also tried to tell the kids about the cool Sock Hops we used to have, but they looked at me like I was from another century. (Just hush.)

Outside Dana Hall:

The Berry Chapel:

Pausing at Martha Berry’s gravesite. Yes, it’s right there next to Dana Hall beside the chapel.

And on to arguably the most beautiful section of campus, the Ford complex (Henry Ford funded this part of Berry).

I used to eat in the Ford Dining Hall below. (Also the site for yesteryear’s Sock Hops that those baby Berry students knew nothing about.)

Ah, the memories.

Finally, I drove about five miles (yes, still on Berry property) to the old Berry Academy part of campus to see my favorite spot of all, the Old Mill.

Believe it or not, we used to try to (illegally) climb that thing!

But not anymore. Nowadays these boots are just made for walking.  And sitting.

What a great Rome-ing day.

I have been so blessed to be a part of three beautiful and top-notch schools: Berry, Georgia Southern University and now SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design).

Other related posts and links:

My GSU Tour

GSU Retirement Post #1

GSU Retirement Post #2

SCAD-ing Outta Retirement

“My Berry”: 

Posted in College Teaching, Humor, Savannah Joy

SCAD-ing Outta Retirement

BFF’s–Blog Follower Friends (or anyone at any restaurant where I’ve eaten for the past two and a half months; or at the Post Office; or at Savannah’s coffee shops) know that on June 21, I retired from Georgia Southern University after teaching English there for twenty-four years.  [First retirement postSecond retirement post.  My final GSU Walking Tour.]  And I had such a fun retiring summer!  Sitting in my backyard, visiting a vineyard, embracing the Savannah Asian Festival, getting put in jail, exploring a fort, going to a Savannah Sand Gnats game, Tybee Island partying, etc.

But then summer started to come to an end, and (as all teachers know) the REAL new year started–the Academic Year.  I grew a bit restless.  And thought about getting a part-time job to keep me off the streets and such, but neither of my Top Five Prospective Second Careers panned out:

1 Tug Boat Operator.

2.  Little Caesars Sign Dancer.  I became interested in this one because the LCSDers at the corner of Montgomery Cross and Waters here in Savannah always seem SO enthusiastic.  So I researched the job a little.  Here’s the description and qualifications from the Little Caesars website:

“Get paid to dance and have FUN!  Part-time Sign Dancer job available!  Are you an outgoing energetic individual looking for work? Are you someone who can attract attention? Do you like having fun at work and staying positive?”  So far, so good.  Work SHOULD be fun!  And I write a happiness blog!  This job seemed right up my alley.

“If so, this is the job for you! We are looking for a part-time Sign Dancer who can hold a sign and have fun at the same time. We are not just looking for your average sign holder. We are looking for someone who can dance with a sign and attract attention.”  Again, surely I could HOLD a sign and have fun in a non-average way.

Requirements:

  • You must be very ENERGETIC and get people’s ATTENTION!!!
  • You must be in decent health. You will be outside.
  • You must be able to wave at passing cars while on duty.  I’m friendly!
  • You must be able to stand the entire shift.  I’m a teacher.  I stand all the time!
  • You must have reliable transportation and arrive on time.
  • You must be able to pass a drug test.  What about Allegra or Tums?
  • You must be at least 18 years old.  I’m SO over 18!  This job is MINE, I thought!

But alas, after hours practicing with a broom in the backyard, I came to find out that Little Caesars wants sign dancers who are not quite so OVER 18.

3.  Quality Control Praline Taster at River Street Sweets(Pure pralines, NOT turtles!)  Jen, can you HELP ME OUT HERE??!!

4.  Famous Italian singer. 

5.  Part-time CEO of Apple.  Afterall, I HAVE read the Steve Jobs biography, I have an iPhone, and I realize that Jobs and I have a whole lot in common, well except for the LSD, and the no-deoderant issue, and the need for absolute control (okay, maybe we have that one a little bit in common).

Anyway, recently I started seeing all those pencils and notebooks and protractors (is there really such a need for those things nowadays?) and composition books (does anybody else out there like to smell, really smell, composition books?) at just about every store I entered.  And, still frustrated and pouting with hurt feelings over the Little Caesars debacle, I decided to go to Craig’s List to see what kind of jobs were available.  Bad idea.  I won’t even begin to tell you what kinds of “job opportunities” I saw there.  So after an hour and a half, I left that site.

Then, after Googling “part-time job” + “$250,000 per year” + “low-to-no work requirement” and only getting hits for “U.S. Vice President” and “Ostrich Feather Fanner for the Kardashians,” I got down to business and Googled “part-time job” + “Savannah” + “education,” and an adjunct position posting at SCAD came up.  SCAD is the Savannah College of Art and Design, an incredibly beautiful and innovative art school scattered primarily throughout the historic district of my city.  Thrilled, I looked into the requirements, and soon after was asked to come do a teaching demonstration.

Initially terrified that I COULD NOT TEACH ART (well, actually I can do some cool little foam-board pictures with macaroni, dried pinto beans, glitter and Elmer’s Glue), I stopped hyperventilating and realized I would be teaching composition (my old stomping ground).  The demo and subsequent interview process went well, and they offered me the job!  (I figure I can work in the macaroni pics eventually.)

Doing a tad of research about SCAD faculty, I discovered on the college website that SCAD faculty include:

  • Emmy® Award winners
  • Academy Award® winners
  • Fulbright scholars
  • Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship recipient
  • British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award nominee
  • LEED-accredited professionals
  • U.S. patent holders
  • Scholars published in academic journals
  • Best-selling authors
  • AIGA Award winners
  • Character animators for Beowulf, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Illustrators for The New Yorker, Time, Disney and NASA
  • Visual effects artists for Titanic and Jurassic Park
  • Sequential artists for Dark Horse, DC Comics, Marvel, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros.
  • Producer of Fried Green Tomatoes and The Breakfast Club
  • Writer for The Cosby Show and As the World Turns
  • Script Supervisor for Driving Miss Daisy

WOW!

I felt a bit overwhelmed.  But then I checked back a while later, and lo and behold, something about Yours Truly was added!

  • Finalist, Eighth Grade Spelling Bee  (perhaps would have gone further but spelled “Georgia” as “Jeorgia” due to nerves)

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I am thrilled, THRILLED to be a part of the SCAD faculty on a part-time basis.  I will be teaching international students English composition.  I’m looking forward to this next phase of my teaching career and life.

Here’s the building where I teach:

It used to be the old Savannah jail.

I put retirement in jail.

Later.

Posted in Life Experiences, Neal's Writing

Learning and Teaching from The World’s Smallest Lady

August–the time of year when school bells ring again.  Teachers everywhere commence their incredible annual charge of encouraging students to develop their true sight, their true voices, and their intellectual joy.  School at every level should be a haven where young learners want to be.  And the teacher, though underpaid and overworked, is key.  Some years back, as I spent a summer month participating in the Georgia Southern Writing Project, I was asked to write about what birthed the teacher in me.  I knew immediately the answer: The World’s Smallest Lady.

small fair

The World’s Smallest Lady

As I dialed the telephone recently to check on the condition of the terminally ill father of a childhood friend from my hometown, I kept trying to keep the memory from surfacing.  I hadn’t thought about it in ages.  An incident from several decades ago surely didn’t still have the power to take control of my thoughts, to interrupt my life.  But the truth is, that memory is too powerful to ignore, too embarrassing, too haunting to dismiss.  And as I listened to Ricky’s phone ringing in one ear, the years faded, and the jumbled noises of an old Cherokee County Fair started sounding in the other, accompanied by reminiscent sights and even smells, which are such an integral part of a southern autumn carnival…

…I was thirteen, old enough to know better.  Ricky, Fred, and I had just staggered off The Bullet and found ourselves walking down Freak Show Alley.  Outside one attraction, a hawker was shouting at passersby to “Step inside and see The World’s Smallest Lady!  Only twenty-six inches tall!  For only a quarter!”  So, laughing, into the tent we hurried, just the three of us.

And there, surprisingly close to us on a small black round table, stood what indeed had to be The World’s Smallest Lady.  She was dressed in a little gaudily sequined gypsy outfit.  A short screaming-red skirt revealed two chubby stumps of legs.  But she wasn’t a child, even though she was so tiny.  Her face looked old, and I could see wrinkles beneath the cheap, garish make-up.  It was her very large head, however, topped with a gaudy, shiny gold crown, which really captured my attention.  I couldn’t stop staring, and why should I?  I’d paid my quarter.

So we gawked and snickered, three carefree young teenagers at the fair, secure and even innocent in our youth, our health, our futures, our “normality.”  Then Fred loudly whispered, “Damn, y’all, look at the size of that head compared to the rest of her body.  And her butt is bigger than mine!”

But it was Ricky, the member of our inseparable trio capable of doing and saying anything for a laugh–who, in reckless teenage cruelty, did the unimaginable.  Before anyone had time to react, Ricky stepped over the velvet rope, reached out to The World’s Smallest Lady, and jerked her gypsy skirt down to her ankles.  He ran out of the tent, followed by Fred, giggling and yelling, “Neal, let’s get out of here!”

But I couldn’t.  My feet were glued to the sawdust, and for a second or two, my eyes looked directly into those of The World’s Smallest Lady.  The dimension of time ceased, no one existed except for her and me, and those humiliated, prostituted, tiny eyes took away my innocence and my security.  As I stared, and stared, the plates beneath my small, comfortable, well-defined earth were shifting, ever so slightly, quaking.  Finally, as she reached down, pulling up her skirt to cover her nakedness, The World’s Smallest Lady spoke in a voice that seemed more resigned than angry: “You boys can just go to hell.”

As I hurried out of that tent and away from that sawdust and those piercing eyes, a startling transformation occurred, the full impact of which I wasn’t aware at the time: a sideshow midget, a twenty-five cent carnival attraction, a freak, became a regular human being with regular human feelings in the frightened yet awakening eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy.

guys

***************************************************************************************************************************************

I learned from my encounter with The World’s Smallest Lady the danger and horror of living in a world where we construct walls which establish the category of “other”–with ourselves being the privileged, the truly knowledgeable, the valuable, the ones who really count, the normal…and “other” being defined by gender, race, class, IQ, physical disability, sexual orientation, etc.  I learned that when we cast our dominant “gaze” patronizingly on others, we diminish ourselves as human beings as well as do violence to those we belittle.  I also learned–years later and after much reflection and life experience–that a teacher is one who refuses to allow the binary of “us/them” to operate in (or outside) the classroom.

May the new school year be one of JOY for students and teachers the world over.

 

Posted in College Teaching, Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers (6/22/12) — Retirement Edition

Yesterday, I retired from full time professorship at Georgia Southern University.  Here are five things about my retiring that make me happy/reflective.

1.  This cool plaque from CLASS (GSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences).

2.  Turning in my grades this morning.

3.  Enjoying the silly truthfulness of a message I posted on my Department of Writing and Linguistics listserv, when I announced my approaching retirement:  Ten Take-Aways from Being a Professor at Georgia Southern for Twenty-Four Years.

*  The student is more important than the subject being taught.

*  Listen to the student–she or he has a voice.

*  Newton (the ancient classroom building which houses my department) never changes.

*  Deans and department chairs do (pretty regularly)  (Okay, very regularly.)

*  The secretaries really run this place.  Be good to them.

*  How I arranged my classroom tables, what books I used, what my theoretical framework was (though important) paled in comparison to being in love with teaching young people (and some not-so-young people) and LIKING students.

*  Don’t grade everything.

*  At least once every week, tell your students something funny–about you, or them or whatever.

*  Take a walk around campus every now and then just to take in its natural beauty.

*  Don’t take yourself or your job too seriously.

4.  A fun saying-goodbye gathering with department members and other collegaues.

Tim Giles and Interim Department Chair Phyllis Dallas.

Mary Hadley, Thomas Klein and Tim.

Terri Welford and Interim Dean Curtis Ricker.

Interim Associate Provost Mike Smith (former CLASS Dean)

Laura Milner and Mary Marwitz

Fellow blogger Emma Bolden

Poet Extraordinaire Eric Nelson

Michael Pemberton and Angela Crow

5.  Realizing that being sad at leaving such wonderful colleagues and students proves the joy of having been a part of Georgia Southern University for so long.

Happiest of Weekends to You All!

Posted in College Teaching

Final Little Hallway Walk and GSU Retirementville

Office 2225B on the second floor of the Newton Building on the campus of Georgia Southern University.  A second home.  For a long time.

But my office is cleared out now, books all boxed and removed.  Quieter than it has been in eons.  Computer-humming quiet.  My office phone suddenly shy, afraid to ring and disturb emptiness.

I’m retiring from full-time college teaching.

This evening, after my last set of finals is turned in, I will walk out my door and down my little hallway for the final time as a professor at GSU.

*************************************************************

The Walk.

*************************************************************

Goodbye, goodbye little hallway!  Goodbye, goodbye GSU!

Hello, hello ….

Posted in College Teaching, Joy in Nature

Walking in Beauty

I spent my undergraduate years basking in the incredible natural and manmade beauty of Berry College  in Rome, Georgia.  I will never forget the JOY of studying on the world’s largest campus, surrounded by sites so breathtaking that occasionally, even as a green freshman, I would stop in my tracks on a journey across campus and stare, openmouthed, at the afternoon light shimmering off of Swan Lake or, on a cold February morning, gaze entranced out my Dana Hall second-floor, frosted dorm window into the ordered courtyard below and smile as deer delicately ate holly leaves and startling red berries in the snow.  I can still hear my young footfalls on the ancient wooden floors of Berry’s gorgeous chapel (modeled after Christ Church in Alexandria Virginia).  And here’s where I ate my meals, the Ford Dining Hall:

What fond and HAPPY Berry memories I have.  Oh my gosh, that place was magical!

So, of course, I never thought that another school could compare with Berry.

But for the past twenty-four years, I have taught English at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.  When I first arrived, my limited vision focused, uncomfortably, on sand, 100 degree summers and beyond-belief pesky gnats.  (Why is that “g” there?  Why are gnats ANYWHERE?) “Who could live in this desolate place?” I wondered.  But slowly the tall pines and the amazing spring azaleas and (inexplicably) even the hot, humid summers wooed me, and I gradually fell in love.  As I adored beautiful Berry as a student, I came to cherish GSU as a professor.  The school and the land have been so very good to me.

I have watched GSU’s campus grow and develop into an enclave of living beauty.  But far too often, in my busy business of teaching and grading and conferencing, I would forget what thrived outside my office window.  So recently I decided to take a leisurely walk across my campus home.  Come with me.

Let’s begin at the Akins Blvd. entrance off Veterans Parkway:

The RAC (Recreational Activity Center) where I spent many an hour trying to hold back the belly bulge.

Let’s ride over to the two eagle statues.

Now let’s climb a tree.

Look, I’m an Olympic hero.

Did you know that the “S” in GSU also stands for my last name, Saye?

When I sit down and think about it, I realize how much I have loved this school and this beautiful land.

Georgia Southern University has allowed me to enjoy a great career of helping young people progress and mature into their greater lives.  I’ve been involved in a wondrous building process!

I’m so happy that both Berry and Georgia Southern are part of who I am.

Posted in Humor

Staring Contest #2

Since after 14 hours I finally won Staring Contest #1 a while back, I decided to challenge a master, former GSU legendary head football coach Erk Russel in Staring Contest #2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh I forgot to tell you, before the struggle of the two titans began, I invoked the time-honored tradition of rubbing the coach’s head to ensure victory.

(Hours, days pass.)

Yes!! Triumphant once again! So why is his name still up there?

 

Posted in Encouragement

You Raise Me Up

I love students.  They’re so “learny” and all.  Well today I gave my first of three finals of the week here at Georgia Southern.  My Everyday Creative Writing class is such a wonderfully cool and fun group of students.  (Although I could easily say the same about each of my classes this semester.)

Here they are at the beginning of class today, writing the reflection portion of the portfolio:

Such hard workers.

And here they are, soon after I began a little lecture comparing taking a final exam to running the race of life (Lesson 42 of my Listen to Neal and Learn series):

And, look, here they are when I stood in front of the room and asked them the first fifty-point exam question: “Who is the best professor in the universe?”

They REALLY are a SMART group of students!  I’m just so very proud of them.

And, look again, here they are when they received the second fifty-point question: “Who is wearing the coolest shirt in the room?”

I have to say that some of their facial expressions got on my nerves a bit.  Like THEY had on hip shirts!

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One of the most incredible benefits of being a professor is that students teach the prof SO much about life:  about being excited and interested and vibrant.  About believing that all things are possible.  (I forget that from time to time.)  About taking risks.  About taking naps.  About being happy.  About enjoying NOW.  About enjoying hot, fresh french fries from McDonald’s.  About living life with fervor.

Simply put, my students lift me, they raise me up.

(Can you tell I’m sort of horizontal there?)

I dedicate this song to all my WONDERFUL students who daily lift me up.  Thank you.  You add much joy to my life.