The Muses of Bad Timing

Without fail my best ideas appear when time is running out.  I have had this problematic course that I have been tinkering with for two years.  I know it needs attention, but it has been moping along with generally decent evaluations and student responses.  Still the course isn't coherent.  I've long known it and long known I need to entirely rethink it.

But there is always something else to focus on and--frankly--I've been singularly uninspired with any ideas on how to start fresh.

So this morning I was spending time finalizing a few minor details on the syllabus, and (wouldn't you know it?) the pedagogical muses show up. In all of an instant I see how the subject could be hung on nine inter-related questions about the subject.  That's it.  Nine questions, a number that will fit well into the course's length and framework.  So simple and elegant.

We could approach each question by taking an initial stand, do a little reading and debating and take our pulse again afterwards.  It's a reflective learning course, so we needn't worry about content cramming or skills.  Just thinking, wrestling and taking stock.  What do we make of the question now?

So alluring was this idea that I couldn't help sketching out the units, the texts and ideas and the assignments into a rough 16-week plan.   Woo-wie!  What fun.  Yet I knew in the back of my head that I was not going to rip up everything and start from scratch with only two weeks before the spring semester begins.  That's madness.

Why are my teaching muses always so fickle in their timing?

I heard the musician/songwriter Tom Waits once say that he talks to his muses. If he gets an idea for a song but is too busy to stop everything and write, he whispers aloud, "Oh thanks for dropping by.  I always love it when you come over.  I have to do this thing right now and I would really hate to rush through our conversation.  I hope you know how important you are to me, so if you could just kindly wait a little bit longer..."

Sometimes this works, he says.  Sometimes it doesn't.  Even so, it can't hurt (whisper whisper...).


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