Resuming Work on the Fort Worth Sinclair Station
We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone. . . . The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated. “What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endlesss parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?,” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream. . . . Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for.
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
A heartfelt thanks I extend to those of you who “missed” me, and inquired about my welfare during this recent blog silence. At the peak of the Texas summer inferno, my air conditioner drain got clogged, and the condensation backed up, soaking my carpet in two rooms in the back of my home. I had to wait in line (a week) for an available plumber under my home maintenance policy. So . . . I had to close the blinds to my studio windows to keep out the sun, and refused to watercolor under artificial light. A week of mandatory back-to-school meetings also kicked in, so my time has been taken every day this past week. Now, the plumbing problem is fixed, the A/C is running cold and dry, my blinds have been re-opened, and I returned to painting yesterday afternoon, early this morning, and late this afternoon.
Anyone following my blog entries knows I have come across a restored Sinclair gas station on McCart Ave. in neighboring Fort Worth. I began this full-size watercolor, but only had it drawn out when the plumbing problem began, and the school meetings called me back into service. I’m painting faster now, not because of any deadline, but because I have been frustrated, laying the brush down for a week. I feel that I am recovering a rhythm lost a week ago. And I am enjoying this renewed vigor in painting, immensely.
As to the quote I posted above from Robert Pirsig, there is much linguistic poison I could spew on this blog page, but I choose not to do that. I was forced to sit for hours this week and listen to “experts” tell us why our public schools are not up to standards. I have never been convinced by statistics and interpretations spun by those who spend no time in the classroom, yet every year, I am forced to sit for hours and listen to them pontificate. This year was no different.
At the foundation of my educational philosophy is the conviction that there is no royal road to education, no shortcuts, no such thing as faster, smarter, more efficient. Technology will not educate our students faster. We learn by acquiring details, and then composting, reformulating, pushing it back out in writing and oral discourse, debating and re-evaluating it, revising, and pushing it out again. All of that requires time. There is no short cut. Thinkers are grown over the years, not in six-week grading units. I myself am still growing my intellect, refining my discernment, practicing and criticizing my own writing and discourse. My pledge this year, as always, is to take the students where they are, and do my very best to push them further down the road, engaging in that arduou process, so that they leave my class smarter and more polished than they were when they arrived. The numerical values used to quantify the excellence of my students’ achievement I will take with a grain of salt. They are not statistics, they are real people, with real life issues, and an inborn drive to grow. I will not stand in their way.
My greatest rewards during the swirling maelstrom of meeings this past week were those stolen moments of genuine conversation with enlightened colleagues, over books, ideas, and genuine wishes to continue what we started at the beginning of our careers. These moments we were able to have in spite of the regimentation of the week’s mandated meetings. These moments we had because we wanted to discuss issues that matter in education–real issues involving real classes, real students, and face-to-face daily encounters.
School doesn’t begin till Monday, but I’m ready. And I have pledged to myself that I will not stop painting with the commencement of the new school year. I have an early-morning appointment with my drafting table. The supplies are laid out and ready. I’ll see what I can do on this painting before I head back to my classroom to spend another workday.
Watercolor in Progress in my Studio
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal because I feel that I am alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.