Too much time on their hands…
A few days ago, I sent out a link to this incredible syllabus to a fellow colleague. Do take a moment to check out the syllabus. Not only is it visually striking, it presents a very impressive narrative of the the course and what it means to study history—the second page, which describes wading, snorkeling and suba diving into history is a wonderful metaphor.
Here is the response I got back from my colleague:
Thanks, John, I look forward to looking this over and mining it for ideas.
On first glance, I see a teacher with way too much time on his hands.
I must admit, I found the “too much time on his hands” comment enraging (not to mention that the syllabus was created by a her). Were I choosing professors to teach my hypothetical history department, this syllabus is about all I’d to convince me to go to great lengths to recruit this professor to my department. Once I read her blog post about how she transformed this document into the above syllabus:
I think I would dispatch my hypothetical jet to fly out and pick this professor up to wine and dine her and do everything I possibly could to recruit her to my department.
This person loves teaching. She’s not afraid to admit it, blog about it, and her passion for teaching goes well beyond her lectures in the classroom; she’s working on the total package, and realizes that even a document as common a syllabus sends a powerful message to students. She’s willing to learn new skills of design in order to craft a syllabus that does more than simply bore a student to tears and make him or her dread the next 18 weeks of class.
And I dare say that professor achieved a greater level of fame than any of her critics. I learned of this syllabus from a post on ProfHacker, a blog by the Chronicle of Higher Ed Blog that has 1550 RSS readers alone.
Why is it that expressions like this, or Dan Meyer’s awesome ADE video below where he admits to spending 18 hours editing a single lesson for his class, draw such criticism from people who think it pointless to spend 18 hours on a single lesson?
I think it again speaks to the need of the education profession to remember that it is a profession, and you get better in a profession with hard work and devotion. No one would tell Jerry Rice he had “too much time on his hands” after watching his unbelieveable training routine, and Chopin’s Eutdes, written and manically practiced by the pianist to perfect particular technical skills are never described as “wastes of time.”
Why can’t a teacher perfect his or her craft with this same level of daily devotion, without derision or judgment? Until we can answer that question, I’m not sure that many of the problems in education will find solutions.