Showing posts from April, 2014

All blessings to the librarians

My institution just spent five years redesigning its Liberal Arts core curriculum.  I had no small role in this project, but increasingly what I find myself grateful for are the contributions of those colleagues on the committee who weren't primarily classroom instructors.  Most of all, I'm grateful we had our head librarian involved.
She was adamant that information literacy needed to be a key component of undergraduate education. She advocated tirelessly until it became one of the seven outcomes of our core, and she made sure it was addressed across the entire university curriculum in countless assignments and projects. She and her staff also designed, piloted and implemented an embedded librarian program in the first-year seminar and in select courses beyond the first year.  They also provided support and faculty development opportunities.

In an age when some have come to question the cost and even the necessity of university libraries, ours has become more vital to the class…

Tempus fugit, lectio fugit

Each spring I formulate a list of things I want to read before fall term comes around in late August.  And every late August I wonder where the time went.  What could I possibly have been thinking with my ambitious reading project?

A few summers ago I decided to set aside time each day to read all 36 Shakespeare plays in the traditional chronology. I never got past Titus Andronicus (sixth on the list according to the Riverside Anthology).   This is to say nothing of my other abandoned projects: reading the King James Bible front to back (never got beyond Second Chronicles); reading Augustine's City of God (don't ask).

So you would  think I would know better than to try this again. Nevertheless this summer I've set myself the goal of reading Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, a novel I've picked up and abandoned at least three other times. So why Proust and why now?  

It's a good question and the only answer I can offer is that I want to re-awaken some long-l…

This was supposed to be a good dodge

My wife and I attended a child birthing class when she was pregnant with my son. Like an idiot I read all of the material and came to class over-prepared each week with a complicated question ready to ask the instructor. Her answer was always the same. She would smile and say, "Well, all babies are different, so it's hard to say exactly."

That's how I feel about each academic semester. Every one is different. Some come to a close with wistful regret, some with satisfaction and some you want to drown in the river like a sack of cats.

Ah, dear yes, all semesters are different (even when you teach the same thing year after year).  This is what most people fail to grasp about teaching. Those who do other work think teaching must be like any other job: you figure out what the goal is, optimize best practices, seek efficiency and assess the results so you can do better next time. You use the best procedures to get the best results.  It's easy.

The problem is next tim…