Monday, June 20, 2011

The Songs in my Head

I don’t transition quickly.  We leave China in about ten days but I have been processing this departure for the past few months.  A wide-ranging musical soundtrack running through my head often accompanies my ruminations.
The 1973 hit by Seals and Crofts, “We May Never Pass this Way Again,” was the tune spinning in my mind as I rode the bus home after my final meeting at UIC.  Yesterday was the day I officially “checked out” at UIC.  That involved getting many signatures including, but not limited to, documenting I did not have any unreturned library books, turning in my staff handbook and I.D. card, getting permission to keep my UIC e-mail address until the end of the month, and turning in my office keys.  
It also involved a final divisional meeting with the Board of Examiners to discuss any deviations from the “grade distribution” rules.  (Regardless of class size, faculty are only allowed to give 10% of the students the grade of A or A-, 15% can be given a B+, etc.)  Anyone who knows me as a teacher can understand why these grade restrictions made me completely nuts.  I think Benjamin Bloom got it right when he wrote, “ The normal curve is a distribution most appropriate to chance and random activity.  Education is a purposeful activity and we seek to have students learn what we would teach.  Therefore, if we are effective, the distribution of grades will be anything but a normal curve.  In fact, a normal curve is evidence of our failure to teach.”
Above & below: friends at United International College

I was thinking about my colleagues in the general education division, when I started hearing the Seals and Crofts song.  Over half of the faculty in our division are not returning in the fall.  A few of us are heading back to the U.S., one secured a position in Hong Kong, and for others, it was simply time to move on.  Like faculty at every college and university I have ever known – this can be a cantankerous group.   I remember back when I was co-chair of the Faculty Development Center, I went to a conference where a wise-cracking speaker defined  “faculty” as a  “a group of individuals who think otherwise.”  While I sometimes question the subject of the bickering and arguing, I appreciate the passion and principles it represents.  In the U.S. a frequent topic of faculty discourse is parking or rather the lack there of.   In the GEO division our fire-filled arguments centered around when a meeting is an official meeting requiring minutes, and when it is an informal gathering therefore not requiring minutes.  I am content to leave that argument behind me.
About a month ago I started hearing the refrain from the 1969 tune by Joe South and The Believers.
Don’t it make you want to go home?
Don’t it make you want to go home?
All God’s children get weary when the roam,
Don’t it make you want to go home?

It is true, I am weary and do feel it is time to go home.  But dang!  It has been quite a ride!  Josh and I have packed in enough memories to last us a lifetime.  My teaching responsibilities this semester prevented me from spending as much time writing as I would have liked.  I hope over the next few months to write more about our experiences in China before they slip into the fog of my middle-aged memory.

Josh with his classmates at QSI
A few weeks ago Josh attended the graduation ceremony and celebration for his friend, Kyoka.  She was the only senior at his school this year and she will be attending Temple University of Tokyo in Japan next year.  As part of the ceremony Josh and his classmates sang the Beatles song “In my Life” to Kyoka, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.  In fact, just thinking about the opening line, “There are places I remember,” gets me a little weepy. 

Later today, Bob, Josh and I are leaving for Hong Kong for a few days.  We decided against doing any long distance traveling during the last weeks here and instead are spending time with the people we have come to call friends, and in the places we enjoy.

The days are going quickly, and I am once again negotiating this outward curve.  I am trying to stay present to the experience of being here, since I know “we may never pass this way again.”  But lately I have been hearing Bonnie Raitt singing to me “And home sings me of sweet things, my life there has it’s own wings, fly over the mountains, though I’m standing still.”

1 comment:

  1. Really like this quote from Benjamin Bloom. Did you successfully argue your case with the Board of Examiners or bow to the rules?

    Stay steady on that outward curve. You've got dancer balance and know how to "spot" as you spin, so I trust you'll land on your feet!