— Forrest Church (1948-2009), Theologian, Author and Senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City.
(heard in a sermon)
I’ve written this new song, but I haven’t learned it yet.
Those words, coming from some singer-songwriter, always used to make me laugh. It struck me funny that the interviewer would ask the artist to “play us a new song,” and this is often how they would respond. How could one not know one’s own song? I think of these words now because my new teaching schedule has me in a similar situation. I’m not quite sure how best to apportion and organize my time to fit my new week. I think this would be true of any college professor, but is especially true for contingent professors like myself, particularly when bouncing between campuses.
When writing my dissertation, I used to used to be particularly edified by other words from singer-songwriters I heard, typically while riding around in my car, listening to WUMB-FM. I felt a particular kinship with these troubadours, because they talked about the importance of discipline in songwriting, and the necessity of sitting down at the same time every day, just sitting, even if no words came. This is true for all except Bob Franke, who described keeping a notepad by his bed, because songs came to him in dreams. That makes sense to me because I tend to think of him as a prophet, cut from the same cloth as we find in the Hebrew scriptures, especially Jeremiah and Amos.
Other rituals involving radio from that time also include listening to the Writer’s Almanac during that time I wrote, from five to seven every morning before heading out to work. It put me somehow in sacred solidarity with a great community of people, living and dead, who have tried to make sense of this world and our life together. At the heart of it, that’s all I really try to do with my students.
— —Samuel Pisar, from an excellent Op-Ed in The New York Times titled “Out of Auschwitz”
Trent Gilliss, online editor
- Ambassador Kosh (fictional character on “Babylon 5” TV seriess)
Serendipity is one of my favorite words, and this is a good history of it. I especially enjoy that, like the words in other languages that describe emotions you never knew you had, it’s one of the top ten English words that is difficult to translate into other languages.
So here’s to those pleasant surprises.
Right now I’m trying to shoehorn a MWF class into a TTh schedule. Theoretically, this should work: 3 x 50 minutes = 2 x 75 minutes. Several different things interfere.
First, as a corollary to the Peter Principle (everyone is promoted to their highest level of incompetence), “work expands to fill thetime alloted for it.”
Second, the course is a process, and it can be difficult to start a big chunk of a topic, only to have to split it across more than one day. This is exacerbated by the somewhat irregular schedule of Tuesday-Thursday classes. There’s the same amount of time between Tuesday and Thursday as between Monday and Wednesday, and Wednesday and Friday, but much more time between Thursday and the following Tuesday. Toward the begining of a semester, I can walk into a Tuesday class and think “Who are you people?”
Lastly, add to this the effort to try to keep the same classes in sync, with papers, tests and all. It’s not going to happen. But the good news, I think is that such things make a professor more nimble and more versatile, therefore more responsive to the students as individuals and idiosyncratic groups. Every class has its own chemistry, which the versatile instructor can use to cross-pollinate ideas across classes.
Does this make any sense?