Thursday, October 6, 2011

Some days are like living in a blender

Yesterday, it was Frank Deford on NPR, quoting former University of California, Berkeley chancellor Clark Kerr:
The three purposes of the University?  To provide sex for the students, sports for the alumni, and parking for the faculty.
Today, it was finding a forgotten electronic bookmark to Max Ehrmann's Desiderata and wondering how, in my youth, I missed this:
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.  Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.  But do not distress yourself with imaginings.  Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Two months ago, it was a faculty retreat on excellence in teaching, where a colleague pondered how to engage students who do not wish to be engaged.  And for the past several weeks, it's been my walks across campus, observing the masses of students, reminding myself that each and every one of them is loved by someone (whether parent, sibling, or friend) and that very few of them are on our campus because they love learning.

And if that weren't enough to keep my mind occupied for a while, I've also been remembering a Mark Helprin quote from Winter's Tale:
(T)ime was invented because we cannot comprehend in one glance the enormous and detailed canvas that we have been given - so we track it, in linear fashion piece by piece.  Time however can be easily overcome; not by chasing the light, but by standing back far enough to see it all at once.
How, then, do teachers rise to the challenge of engaging hearts and minds, knowing full well the lessons needed, understanding the youthful resistance to learning, and realizing much we offer will not be embraced for many years (if at all)--all without giving in or giving up?  I wonder if each one of us who teaches (regardless of where or what) must struggle to find our own place to stand, one that provides enough distance to see it all at once and enough proximity to remain engaged.

Some days I get it in an instant; others, not so much.

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