Agriculture and Natural Resources
The phenomena known as Voice Lessons
The benefits of participating in Voice Lessons are varied and numerous. First, there is the interdisciplinary interaction (when else do I have, take, the opportunity to spend time conversing with folks from arts and humanities). Next, there are the new ideas and concepts regarding teaching. And finally, there is the opportunity to write and contemplate one’s chosen career. All of these things combined to fill the week of Voice Lessons with new ideas and energy. We learned about the simplicity of Watson and Crick’s original paper, the complexity of conducting a physical examination on a horse and several of us made ourselves dizzy during an instant messaging lesson. There were readings from Parker Palmer and Peter Elbow along with all ways writing. Whether it was a writing response group, reflective writing, practicing ink sheds or literature circles the week was filled with different opportunities to write and to think about writing.
On a personal level the workshop was very instructive. For starters, I learned I know nothing about music, but I enjoy it. This got me thinking about enjoying things that you don’t understand. Can you enjoy it if you don’t understand it? Can you understand it if you don’t enjoy it? When my students tell me “she tried hard but the subject is so boring…”., is this the same as “I’ll never understand because I don’t enjoy it.” So what do I need to change to add ‘enjoyment’ to my class or is it my job to make them enjoy it? I am revising my introductory class based on these insights and I’m using student reflective writings to help me do this.
So what was so wonderful about Voice Lessons? Was it the faculty or the new ideas? Sure I spend time with faculty from other disciplines but rarely is the encounter focused on being better teachers. I have always thought continuing education was important. Over the years I have attended many faculty workshops and audited several courses. But the week of Voice Lessons I learned more than I had expected. What was it about the group of faculty that was so magical? Was it the diversity of genders, races, ages, disciplines? Was it the new ideas that careened through the room? Yes, careened. You’d see the light go off when the scientist sensed they understood what the artist was saying. Or the light dawned when you saw the possibility of using a new teaching technique with your students. Or you got validation from others that it is okay to “waste” class time writing. Writing helps us in the discernment process, it makes us better communicators, it makes us better people. How cliché. So what was it about this workshop? Is it just that we have put the time aside to write – is that all it was? Or was there more?