The Usefulness of Deadlines

The Usefulness of Deadlines

Sometimes I’ve said I would love to live in a world without deadlines. And, perhaps such a world could be wonderful. But I am not always sure.

When I was in graduate school, I had two professors during the same semester. Since they were my major and minor area supervisors, this happened most semesters, in fact. One had an absolutely rock-solid deadline policy. I knew he would give extensions for hospitalization and similar extreme reasons (but not much else). The other professor believed an assignment should be turned in on time; but realized that things take their own time. Oddly enough, I had tremendous stress preparing work for both of them.  Continue reading

Challenging But Not Severe

Challenging But Not Severe

My dad was right; I have forgotten almost everything any teacher worked to teach me. It is my character that has been improved. (Please see previous post.) That is the lasting influence of those who were most effective. The facts and skills I have taught myself (often again) as I have needed them. I was empowered by the best of my teachers to teach myself and learn what I needed.

What is common to the teacher’s whose presence in my life I still recall and influence I can still trace is that they were all demanding — but not severe. Continue reading

A Good Teacher is a Good Student

A Good Teacher is a Good Student

‘I can’t be a teacher — I’m just learning. I don’t know enough to teach.’

The woman, a student in one of my classes, sat across the small round table from me. She was a few years older than I was. We were both already middle-aged. I sat there thinking about what she said. She was a year away from graduating with her master’s degree; about the same time she would have her first job — in which she would be required to teach.

She looked at me expectantly. I sat there, thinking and smiling.

‘Aren’t you going to say anything?’ she said with a note of irritation in her voice.

‘What would you like me to say?’ I asked. She looked exasperated.  Continue reading

What Are You Fighting Against?

What Are You Fighting Against?

‘What are you fighting against?’

We were all sitting around our professor, on the floor, on drawing horses, or on tackle boxes filled with art supplies. We were in a darkened university drawing studio. A few minutes before, he had sent the model out for a break and beckoned us to join him for some philosophical reflection. This was a regular part of being his student; and it was an aspect of his teaching that most of us appreciated.

But, no one ventured a reply to his question. He had a fine intellect; one of the best I’ve encountered. It was easy to feel intimidated when speaking with him. Sometimes those who answered before he made clear where he wanted to go with his thoughts hit embarrassingly far from the mark.

‘What makes you angry?’  Continue reading

The Point of All Learning

The Point of All Learning

The point of all learning is the improvement of character.

This is written across the top of the whiteboard in my office. It is there as a personal and professional statement of purpose.

When I was about seven years old, right about this time of year, my dad was setting up his classroom at an elementary school in New Hudson, Michigan. It was late afternoon and golden light was flooding that room in the old schoolhouse. Dad had been watching me for the day. He’d kept me busy with tasks like lining up the desks in perfect rows, rewashing the chalkboard so that it met his standards of clean, and organizing the pens and pencils in his desk. It was perfect training for a child who would one day grow up to have very fine OCD habits of his own. Then, as my stomach reminded me that the day was nearly done, Dad suddenly stopped what he was doing and summoned my attention by calling my name.

‘Glen, there are two things you need to know and remember:  Continue reading