Hitting to all fields
Posted on February 3, 2010
I’ve been doing so much writing and thinking about important practical nuts and bolts matters, things like tuition rates and budgets and enrollment data, that I am selfishly using this blog post for one of my “hitting to all fields” rambles through whatever crosses my mind.
1. There can in the teaching of a thing emerge a deeper reverence borne not of its intellectual apprehension, but in simply spending so much time with it. I feel that way about J.D. Salinger’s short story For Esme, With Love and Squalor. When I taught my very first class as a Teaching Assistant at Boston College, barely older than the students in front of me, Salinger’s Nine Stories was one of the assigned texts and with every semester that I taught it, that particular story took greater hold of me.
I have returned to it from time to time, but it had been years since I read or taught it last. So upon hearing of Salinger’s death last week, I brought lunch back to my office on Friday, closed the door, and spent 40 minutes rereading this touching story. There is a tender fragility in Salinger’s stories that makes me love his characters in a way that I rarely love the neurotically fragile characters in much contemporary fiction.
2. Atul Gawande, one of my very favorite writers and the medical writer for the New Yorker has a new book called The Checklist, based on his amazing work using the (ostensibly) simple checklist to combat post-surgical complications. He is a natural storyteller, very much like his friend Malcolm Gladwell, and his narrative ranges from the use of the checklist in aviation to medicine to the miraculous USAir landing on the Hudson to high finance. Speaking of neurotic, I want to start using checklists for everything. Pat sighs, knowing this too shall pass.
3. I know the CEO founder of Whole Foods Supermarkets is a nut job (a clinical term Jet Goldberg taught me) and the prices are often ridiculous, but I spent nearly two hours in a Whole Foods on Saturday and thought that if there is a heaven, my version might look like Whole Foods. It also raises the secondary question: why is there not a good baguette anywhere in the state of New Hampshire or at least southern New Hampshire.
4. I really, really hate to admit it, but Kobe Bryant is THE guy you want when you need a desperate win-the-game final second shot. Worse, Peyton Manning is at the height of his powers right now and may be the best who has ever played the position. God it pains me to say those things. Yankees still….well, you know.
5. SNHU people who have been mentioned to me by others this last week or so and who exemplify the place at its best:
Tom Helm and the AV crew (but please, I’m begging you, stop putting tv’s on every available wall…really, I’m begging);
Elaine, our landscaper. Winter is starting to feel long and I look forward to the transformation she will create come May. I’m dreaming about it.
Monique “No BS” Fonner. We should have a small alter with candles and a picture, God forbid anything ever happens to her. Students will be registering by scratching their courses on the backs of leaves or something.
The boys on the snow removal crew. There was a stretch, day after day, when those guys weren’t getting a lot of sleep.
Cindy Migliori. The picture of endless grace as she became field general overseeing the recent expansion in the millyard. If not for Cindy, the MSR crew would be using tin cans and string for phone and cardboard boxes for desks.
Bethany Perkins and Jen Owens and Jess Borey and the others in UGD Admissions for blowing the doors off our Spring numbers. I got to see some of the work firsthand from across the hall and know it wasn’t easy.
I paid a visit to PSNH with Beth Sheheen to talk about the College Unbound project Beth is spearheading. She is passionate and thoughtful about it and if we eventually pull it off we will redefine what college learning can look like.
Joe Zaleski — does this guy ever sleep?
6. Ten Reasons Not To Like Florida
*Left blinkers all the time;
*Community theater groups doing renditions of Broadway musicals are the height of culture;
*Culinary standards geared to the tastes of retirement communities;
*Sprawl — the land of the strip mall;
*Born Again billboards (If Jesus really loved me would he send me to Florida?);
*God’s waiting room;
*Tampa Bay Devil Rays (not calling them The Rays);
7. Ten Reasons To Love Florida
*Eating outside in February;
*Amazing rides (Lamborghini and Ferrari parked outside restaurant last night);
*No problem getting into any restaurant after 8 PM;
*Key lime pie and sweet tea;
*February 3rd: 75 degrees;
*Old people look rich and contented; young people look like models (often in same couple: old rich guy, model looking young woman — Ferrari thrown in);
*Latino culture (Miami and New Orleans two most unusual cities in America).
Hmmm….maybe Jesus does love me.
8. To the person who sent the Q&A question about why people can’t make their own salads anymore: really?
9. To the person who sent the Q&A “question” telling me to stop whining when we had to cut positions in the fall: Why do you have to be so mean? Why are you picking on me? You’re being so unfair. I don’t like it.
10. Some tidbits from the alumni event in Florida last night:
A. A successful lawyer recounting how he went from major to major at New Hampshire College and then took a writing class with Bob Begiebing that gave him focus. He said Bob worked with him, was demanding, and made him a good writer and set him on his path to law school. As teachers we don’t always know the life changing impact we have on students.
B. More than one successful alum started their accounts with “I wasn’t the best student when I arrived at NHC….” They then talked about finding their way, usually under the wing of a faculty member. Some of those names evoked: Tuffy Phelps, George Teloian (who still scares them), Frank and Elie Barnes, Chris Toy, Bob Fleeson, Dottie Rodgers.
C. There was amazement and pride in the way SNHU has grown. A lot of warm praise for Dick Gustafson’s contributions from those here during his time.
D. One alum now teaches for us online and gushed about Allison and her work with faculty and Michelle and her work with course authors. He said he feels like a member of a rich learning community even from a distance.
E. Tuition freeze resonated with alumni.
F. No one said they missed the snow and ice.
G. Many still scared of George Larkin. Some should be as you hear the stories.
Speaking of Peyton Manning…Rick Reilly (possibly my favorite sports writer, though I wish he were still with Sports Illustrated) just wrote a great story for ESPN on the Mannings being divided over whether to root for their son/brother or for the New Orleans.
I especially enjoyed this line: “In summary, you must either have had your heart removed by corn tongs or be in the Manning family if you’re not pulling for the Saints.”