Just Notice

At the beginning of the semester I was first very drawn to the course epigraph, “my job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice” said by Dionne Brand. Within my first blog post of the semester, My Future Classroom Awaits, I discussed and explored this epigraph. Looking back on that first blog post I have found that my interpretation and understanding of not only this particular epigraph but also the course content has greatly shifted. Although this shift has taken place, I still find myself drawn to this epigraph even though I am understanding it through a new lens.

When I first looked into this epigraph I connected it to the straddling activity that we, as a class, participated in during the beginning of the semester. Today as I look into the epigraph I am able to make further and deeper connections as I see its relation to many of the texts we have engaged in over the course of the semester. This broad but rather focused epigraph is able to form a through line for the great variety of literature we have explored throughout the course. To be honest there were several times throughout the semester where the best I could do was notice. For example, while reading Suzan Lori Park’s, “Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom,” I was very confused at first and I personally did not even feel comfortable unpacking or interpreting what the underlying story was, however, I was still able to notice. It can be argued that the idea of noticing is present all around us, especially for those of us that are students. Dr. McCoy has pushed us to “unpack” the literature that we have engaged with over the semester. From engaging with Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild,” to “Elements of Style” by Suzan Lori Parks, to Big Machine by Victor LaValle (just to name a few) engaging, unpacking, and interpreting these texts all starts out with the simple act of noticing. Noticing things such as character development, themes, genre, references, plot, etc. Noticing leads to interpretation.

I explored the idea of interpretation within my blog post, “What Role do Symbols and References Play in Literature?” Referencing back to my post I stated, “As intellectuals how do we know when we should be interpreting something as a symbol or a reference? Should we just always be on the lookout and interpret symbols and references in our own personal way?” Oxford Dictionary defines notice as, “the fact of observing or paying attention to something” and it also defines interpret as, “understand (an action, mood, or way of behaving) as having a particular meaning.” Especially while considering these definitions, I find the words “notice” and “interpret” to go hand and hand with one another. I also find them to be representative of my experience within this course. Is it possible to fully interpret and understand something without noticing the factors surrounding it? I would like to argue, no. I have developed the understanding that noticing is the first step towards interpretation. I find this true, of course, within the classroom and educational setting, while interpreting texts and information. However, I also find it true in everything that we come in contact with, especially other people.

Throughout this course, I have found myself able to make many connections to my future educator self and the course epigraph “my job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice” has played a big part in that from the very beginning of the semester. As a future educator, I believe that it is very important to notice every student. Without being aware of what is going on within your students’ life, you will not be able to truly understand and interpret what they may be going through. This also stays true to everyday life, with every person we may come across. Without the act of noticing surrounding factors it would be close to impossible to put yourself in the shoes of someone else. Alongside noticing and interpreting I also see doubt to have a place. I would also like to bring the idea of doubt into these thoughts; as Victor LaValle writes in Big Machine, “Doubt is the big machine. It grinds up the delusions of women and men.”

As intellectuals, it is human nature to question and doubt the things presented to you within your life, whether these things are taught to you by someone or you notice them yourself. With the consideration that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time,” according to SUNY Geneseo’s GLOBE outcomes, I believe that there is a direct connection between doubting and noticing. I find the GLOBE statement to be hinting at the fact that students should be doubting the information they have been retaining. It seems to be the student’s job to reflect back, question, and doubt. Without the act of reflection and doubt, students would be left to assume that everything learned throughout their time at Geneseo has been true, unbiased, and verifiable. Would it be ignorant as students to put full trust in our professors through assumptions that they are presenting us with true, unbiased, and verifiable facts? I would say yes. Our “job is to notice… and to notice that you [we] can notice.” We must notice, doubt, question, and reflect to grow as students, as intellectuals, as human beings. Suzan Lori Parks explores a similar idea within “Elements of Style” when she discusses repetition and revision, “Rep & Rev are key in examining something larger than one moment.” Just like the process of repetition and revision; noticing, interpreting, and doubting is a never ending cycle. These acts are not static, they expand throughout our thoughts. 

To come full circle, I would like to explain more on why today I sit here with a different understanding of the epigraph, “my job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice,” than I originally had at the beginning of the semester. Throughout this semester through my engagement with course literature, discussions with my classmates, and my interaction with blog posting I have come to the conclusion that it is okay to just notice. Looking back to my first interaction with this epigraph, at that time I was so focused on what comes next after noticing. Interpretation? Doubt? I have argued yes, and I still believe the answer is yes, however, I would also argue that sometimes it is okay to just stop after noticing. This semester has really helped me accept and learn that I am not always going to have the answers for every question I present myself with or every question someone may ask me. There are going to be times where I am at a loss to why things are the way they are; whether these things are information I learn within the classroom setting or just everyday things we as humans face within our lifetime. Life is going to throw you curveballs and sometimes you just don’t understand why. It is okay to not know every answer. Just keep on noticing the people, the world, the life around you. Sometimes that is all you need to do. Just notice.

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