Sunday, November 17, 2013

In Praise of The Instigator

Because Todd and I have already discussed next year’s 9x9x25 Challenge at length, I plan to use this space to accomplish a pair of long-percolating goals.  First, I shall curb my natural propensity for verbosity (staring now) and make this post exactly twenty-five sentences.  No, really, this makes three.  Drat; I had best get creative and conservative fast.  My second goal is to thank Todd for providing us with the carrot, the stick, and, yes, sometimes the whip, that is this project.  When he approached me with the idea over the summer I was flush with post-grading euphoria and a sudden surplus of free time.  It sounded like a great idea, in an abstract sort of way, and I readily agreed to participate.  The check didn’t come due until October, and by then (like most of you), I was staring at a full schedule and piles of work high enough to have their own ski lift.  Motivation was low.

Fortunately, my office is four doors down from The Instigator.  For those of you not lucky enough to exist in close proximity to Todd, it’s a bit like sharing a workspace with a cheerleader, an inventor, an optimist, a friendly IT guy, a happily misplaced John Muir, and The Cat in the Hat.  If this sounds like some sort of manic Hell, I cannot assure you it’s not.  Rather, Todd wanders the corridor of M building, poking his shaggy head in offices, dispensing each personality in just the right proportion.  Of course, the formula might not always feel right at the moment.   

When I’m three hours into grading essays, with another three soul-sucking hours to go, I’m not interested in hearing about Blackboard’s newest doodad, nor what cool things my apparently essay-less colleague has cooked up and put forth on the web for her ever-so-lucky students.  However, like some tech-savvy Johnny Appleseed, Todd knows that not every seed sown will bear fruit.  Instead, he relies on casual tenacity and repetition.  On Tuesday I am frightfully busy, but when he knocks on Thursday (and Todd is never afraid to knock), I’m sipping coffee and tossing around ideas for a new class.  When The Instigator walks in at that moment, he’s just what I need; in fact, he’s just what every good teacher needs. 

Though the life of an educator is rewarding, it can sometimes grow repetitious.  Each semester we teach students roughly the same material, using roughly the same techniques, in roughly the same spaces, and with roughly the same goal.  In this way we can fall into the role of an assembly worker at a large production plant, each day inserting part X into part Y2.  This is not our fault, nor necessarily a bad thing; we each delve deeply into our disciplines, and, over a few years, find effective methods of achieving our goals –after all, if it’s not broke, why fix it?  Nevertheless, we occasionally need someone to get us off our well-worn seats and make us tour the factory, to show us what happens at station X, to examine the finished product, to share what’s going on at the Dearborn plant.  This is what Todd does, and this is what 9x9x25 has achieved.  Perhaps that is why I’ve not felt some momentous change by participating in this project –with The Instigator around, I get to engage in it all the time.

1 comment:

  1. I'll echo the mulitple personalities of Mr. Todd Conaway, and your observations that he visits our offices at just the right (or wrong) time for what we need. The best part is Todd's open door / sharing mentality; if he knows it he'll share it. Love the masked picture!