A shift has happened. Schedules are fully in place — kids’ school and activities, full-time work, and evening meetings or events. Summer was a gift, especially this first one in five years without doctoral demands and with children old enough to do their things while I did mine. I am thankful for what we had, but the structure we inevitably needed has inevitably come.
Time at the piano and time to write about it will require more commitment and planning than before. When I set out on this project, though, I added the “and other adventures” to the title so if the practicing wasn’t happening I could write about what was happening. This week one of the happenings was this:
These notes are from yesterday’s teaching faculty workshop. Some years guest speakers give the workshop and these individuals are often inspiring and provoking. This time we heard from our own colleagues on three themes under the meta question, “What is Unique about a Goshen College Education?” — Philosophical/Religious Underpinnings, International Education, and Pedagogies Within and Across Disciplines.
It was a great day. I geeked out on my love for Goshen College and my love for pedagogy. Some highlights:
• From John D. Roth’s new book Teaching that Transforms (chapter 3 was one of our readings for the day) an exploration of the dispositions found in good teaching: curiosity, reason, joy, patience and love. John, Professor of History, offered an Anabaptist theological framework for pedagogies anchored in our senses, and for the act of learning as a sacred act, as an act of worship.
• Kevin Gary, Professor of Education, spoke of a “great spiritual truth” that holds two ideas in tension — 1. you are not that important; 2. you are loved beyond measure. Experiential learning happens best when we both suspend self and open self to the experience. I also learned from Kevin that I need to read some T.S. Eliot.
• Beth Martin Birky, Professor of English and Women’s Studies, reflected on how leading Study-Service-Term took her outside of her specialties but also deepened her scholarship as she began a multi-year research project about women in Costa Rica. Her commitment to personal engagement with the women she wanted to learn from and her ability to creatively engage college students in her research are models I want to remember.
• Ross Peterson-Veatch, Associate Academic Dean, suggested a working theory for our teaching, a bridging concept to help students: 1. know what to pay attention to and what not to pay attention to; 2. have a structured experience; 3. have time for structured reflection; and 4. make a commitment to what is known now that wasn’t known before. This theory reminded me of the educational philosopher Maxine Greene’s trio of steps for meaningful engagement in the arts (from her book Releasing the Imagination): 1. exposure; 2. active engagement; and 3. reflection. Ross deepened this for me and also arranged it as a quartet with the addition of commitment. Perhaps this commitment helps us avoid outcomes where we “had the experience but missed the meaning” (from the 3rd quartet of Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot — Thanks, Kevin).
There was more to this geek-fest — a “History of Goshen College in 12 Minutes” by Steve Nolt, the story of Study-Service-Term by Tom Meyers, the role of language-learning on SST by Dean Rhodes, and pedagogical vignettes by about ten other colleagues. Kathyrn Meyer Reimer, outgoing faculty chair, did a masterful job of organizing the day and I’m grateful.
And now, with my head full and my hands too quiet, I will play some Bach this weekend. I will trust that my own art-making will in some way nurture my teaching disposition into more curiosity, reason, joy, patience, and love to offer my students. I will encounter, experience, reflect, and commit to what is learned. I will remember I’m not that important. I will be ok with this because I know I am greatly loved.