Teaching adults, no child’s play

what the best college teachers do

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to teach.  This shouldn’t sound like such a scary proposition, given that I am a former elementary and middle school teacher, as well as a certified second language teacher (French, not English, but that’s another story).  But I wasn’t teaching eager-eyed first graders or even those steely-eyed arbiters of cool (read 7th graders).  No, I was teaching adults, professional ones with considerable expertise and experience with the topic I was planning to teach.  I only briefly felt like an imposter, as Brookfield termed adults who go back to school and feel they have no right to be there.  After all, as a former principal, I had some expertise and experience of my own to share.  Adult students, however, present challenges and opportunities unique to their ages and stages.  As educators themselves, they have a keen eye for good teaching and are in an excellent position to evaluate bad teaching.  And while they probably won’t act out if they experience the former, they can disengage from the whole process so politely that you won’t even notice the energy drain until it’s too late.

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Fall Rituals: A “New” Year

The New Year is significant in many cultures.  When I lived in Colombia a whole set of rituals accompanied “El Año Nuevo”, including wearing yellow underwear for good luck and walking your suitcase around the block on New Year’s Eve to ensure travel opportunities in the coming year.

Here in North America, the new year is the turn of the calendar year, a time when we traditionally make (and shortly thereafter break) resolutions.  In China, the New Year occurs in late January/early February and traditionally marks a time of celebration, reconciliation, and hope.   Perhaps because I have spent most of my life in schools,  first as a student and then as an educator, my “new year” really begins in September.

I’m not one for resolutions really.  But there’s something about September that invites introspection.  What do I want to accomplish this school year?  That one’s easy – finish the dissertation.  With the cooler weather, it will soon be time to store the bike and kayak.  How will my fitness goals change?   How about work/life balance?  There’s one that eluded me for most of my working life.

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Superman and Gutenburg

Original caption: "singapore biennale 2008. bachelor - the dual body. ki bong rhee, korea. a book floating in water, illuminated by blue light. the book will neither rise to the surface nor sink due to the currents of the water."

Image cc license from Flickr user Andreas Schlegel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sojamo/2875016106/

While going for a walk the other day, my husband said he’d been pondering something recently. Wouldn’t it be nice, he asked, to have the ability to imprint your thoughts onto an object that will persist throughout space and time, rendering yourself and your words immortal, after a fashion? He had a particular object in mind and wanted me to guess what it might be.  My first guess wasn’t correct: as it turns out, despite being a Superman fan, he wasn’t thinking of the crystals that Jor-El used to convey history of Krypton and countless other universes as well as loads of other useful information for his son Kal-El. As that had seemed the most logical answer, I didn’t actually have a second guess.

My husband explained that it was really quite simple. It was a variation of a device that had been developed in Holy Roman Empire, in Europe, and China, in Asia. He was specifically thinking of printing and the printing press. While one might argue about which culture was the first to keep written records or the timing of the transition from oral to written records having greatest authority, it’s difficult to argue with printing as an effective means of compiling, storing, and preserving words and images in a way that will last a substantial period of time.

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