Showing posts from July, 2016

The Opposite of Synedoche

So much of how a course is put together exists only in a professor's head.  Case in point: I've been reading the texts for a colleague's capstone seminar this summer because I will be teaching it in the spring. 

The texts are all great (Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Howard Zinn's autobiography, a graphic novel by Charles Burns).  But without understanding the neural connections of my colleague's pathway through the themes and subjects, I can't see how the course comes into a whole.

And that's the point, isn't it?  A syllabus, a list of texts, some well-wrought assignments, all the proprietorial and tangible parts of a course do not make it whole.  There remains the original connections made by a single mind that knitted some ideas together.   In the end, the dancer is the dance.

Several years ago I tried to package up one of my courses so it could be taught by a colleague who was stepping i…


One of the goals I had when I first began blogging on teaching and learning was to be more open about my struggles in the classroom.  Or let's not mince words: my failures in the classroom.

All too often in higher education, we don't want to talk about our failures.  Even for a tenured full professor, it's risky.  There is an emotional component to owning  one's failures before colleagues, some of whom can be unkind, quick to judge or anxious to tell you how you should have done it.  So, fearful of rebuke, you hold back and find ways to ascribe your failure to factors beyond your control.

In The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer acknowledges the grip that fear has on educators.  He writes,
It is all around us and so it permeates our senses and our way of being. It has become such a societal norm that we don’t even realize it’s there.  To notice fear would mean we would need to face it. To admit that fear exists would be to admit that we are doing it wrong.  And this is wha…