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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Instructor Brett Land’s irregular journey to teaching and tranquility

Anthony Zell
Brett Land grins at the Great Meadow at City College’s East Campus on April 10 in Santa Barbara, Calif. Land has been a part time English proessor at City College for 10 years, while also teaching mutilple yoga classes.

The first thing someone notices when stepping into one of Brett Land’s English classes at City College is not the typical reading or discussion among students but rather students with their eyes closed, being led through a 10-minute meditation. 

When Land first moved to Santa Barbara to get his doctorate, he did not envision teaching English or staying in Santa Barbara for much longer than he had to. His time here was supposed to be short, but once he began teaching at City College, Land explained he knew this was his calling.

Land’s journey to becoming an English teacher, having a film made about him and his brother, and unpacking his passion for writing was anything but linear. It all began one night at a party during his undergraduate years at Francis Marion University.

Land went to the party with his brother Brad, who left early and gave two men who he thought were from the same party a ride home.

“They kept directing him further and further out of town and into the country,” Land said. “Then they took him out of the car, beat him up, and threw him in the trunk.”

The two men continued to drive into the country, took Brad out of the trunk, and beat him until they thought he was dead. Brad survived this initial attack but was left with the traumatic remnants that caught up to him once he and Land transferred to Clemson University. 

Brad went on to write the New York Times Bestseller “Goat” about this experience and the trauma he was left with. His book was then turned into a movie, with Nick Jonas playing Brett and Ben Schnetzer playing Brad. 

“It’s very strange to have somebody play you and, even worse, someone that everybody loves but you don’t,” Land said. “It’s just that he’s not really like me.”

The entire process of filming was unnerving for Land, especially when it came to his feelings about people profiting off of his brother’s trauma. 

“My perception was that Brad was the genius, that he was the one that made all this happen, and that everybody else there was kind of taking from him,” Land said. 

His love and admiration for his older brother have been constant throughout his life. Still behaving like twins, they are currently working on screenplays and creative projects together. 

“We’re creative partners” Land said. “I wouldn’t know anything about writing if it wasn’t for my brother, he’s the one that taught me about the craft of writing.” 

Even though he credits his initial knowledge of writing to his brother, he attributes his talent for teaching to his father, who is a preacher. 

“We moved from town to town, but we always lived next door to the church, and if the doors were open, I was in church,” Land said. 

Watching his father preach in church every week gave him the gift of speaking and teaching, and his background in the church inspired him to pursue his degree in religious studies. 

“I think studying philosophy and religion was at first an attempt to understand that stuff in a different language and a kind of higher language than the church itself could give me,” Land said. 

Although he appreciated his Southern upbringing and where it led him, moving to California proved necessary due to the constricted view of masculinity he experienced while living in South Carolina. 

“It felt like a different country,” Land said in reference to his move to California. “I might as well have moved to Japan.”

While in graduate school at UCSB and struggling with the pressures of his studies, Land lost a bet, which led him to take his first yoga class. 

“I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a yoga class,” he laughed. “I’m from South Carolina, I thought it was some froufrou s***.”     

Though yoga and meditation were not his typical coping mechanisms, he found them to be the hidden skills he had needed all along. 

“After [that] class, I was outside leaning against my car, and I felt better than I had in years,” Land said. “I didn’t want to move. It was like I had just taken oxycontin or something.” 

He then went back into the yoga studio to ask the instructor the question that changed his life.  

“Do you feel like this all the time?” Land said, “Because if you do, I need to change my life.”

After that initial class, Land became a yoga instructor for the next ten years. He tries to give his students the gift of peace he felt after his first time doing yoga, having every class of his for the past ten years meditate during their first ten minutes with him. 

Today, Land is an English teacher at City College, teaching English 110 and 111.  He maintains that even during the dreary days of teaching, he truly cares about his job and knows it matters. 

 After the birth of his first daughter, Clementine, Land mentioned that he had a class slacking off noticeably more than usual. 

“It was so obvious they didn’t care, and I just tore into the class,” Land laughed. 

 After his bad cop act during class, Land explained he had a student come up to him afterward and gift him a Clemson University onesie for his daughter. 

“I immediately started crying,” Land said. “He just woke me from everything that I thought.

“Everything I was saying to the class was immediately negated. He’s paying attention. He’s listening. He deeply cares about you, and you are making a difference.”

Land aims to teach with urgency during every class, going in with a mantra every morning that this is the last time teaching, and if he has something important to say, he needs to lay it on the line then.

Outside of teaching, Land surfs, is writing four books, publishing his own collection of essays, and taking care of his three young kids. Though busy, Land mentioned that he wouldn’t want his life any other way and said that even if he were independently rich, he would still teach English 110 and 111 at City College.

“I know my job is meaningful, I see it every day,” Land said. “I know that a breakthrough is possible, and if I show up and do my job, that’s gonna make a difference in some kids.”

Correction: April 15, 2024
A previous version of this story misspelled the word “froufrou” with “fru fru.” Additionally, grammatical and punctuational errors were made in the previous version of this story. 

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