Have I mentioned I love bookstores? An independent bookseller with comfy chairs and a coffee/tea/wine bar is highly preferred, but closely following that is a college bookstore, where there are all sorts of odd books relating to classes and interests at that university. And they have unusual tablets and notebooks and papers and pens, which I also love…but I digress. Back to the book. I found this book at a college bookstore, signed by the author (who had been speaking there) shortly after I started my doctoral program about 8 years ago. It’s a small book, but has been sitting, lonely, on my shelf, since doctoral programs while working full time do not lend themselves to pleasure reading outside of class assignments, as I’ve mentioned before. Hence its addition to this year’s Book Challenge (Read 12 books that have been on your shelf for over a year). http://roofbeamreader.com/tbr-pile-challenge/
He does not talk much about food, but does mention going to a diner for coffee in the mornings, a quiet time and place where he could write. I did the best I could, by reading this in a very comfy chair at home, with a mug of Constant Comment spiced tea (with a little Southern Comfort), because even though it is the end of April in Memphis, it is still cool enough to make me think about turning the heat on (the house is 66 degrees; outside it’s about the same but dropping), but will not. So hot tea is warming and comforting.
This is not a long book, but he covers a lot of ground. It is about the art of teaching; not the mechanics. He talks as a mentor, telling stories, from one experienced professor to a beginner, or less experienced. “Remember that your job is to demonstrate before students the process of thinking….you are trying to provide students with the sensation of thinking as well as the thoughts themselves.” (p.113). Things he discusses fit I well with what I’ve earned about adult learning theories. The only downside is his experience comes before the shift to online classes, and he has taught at schools where the face-to-face lecture, seminars and office hours provide opportunities for Professor-student interaction that I remember fondly (mostly) from my student days, but are scarcer now. He talks about academia, about intellectuals, about the political-ness and ideological perspectives from campuses, and the relation to education. “My teachers challenged me” he says “to reconsider a whole range of notions about the nature of reality that I took for granted.: (p. 152). But he does close with the thought to “Welcome change”. (p. 155)
The book is small, fairly short, not difficult reading, but interesting and thought-provoking. I have never had the desire to be in academia full-time, but I do enjoy teaching. So even thought I have taught college classes off-and-on over the past 20 or so years, I can affirm some of his points from my experience, but I can hear him speaking to me as one not as experienced and still learning. Always learning.
Quote of the month (or week).
Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. ~ Carl Sandburg