October 31, 2010

Greil Marcus, asked what's the best piece of advice he's actually followed, gives some teaching advice.

It's really good:
When teaching a seminar, and there's a point that rises out of the discussion that you think absolutely has to be made, wait. In five minutes someone in the class will say what, if you, the teacher, had said it, would have killed the discussion - but coming from a student, it will push the discussion forward, into richer territory than your own sterile interruption could ever have found. That was my own advice to myself, and every time I teach a seminar, I have to remind myself of it about every 15 minutes.
Ah! The temptation to just say it (which I yield to all the time).

I found that because of my Google alert on "Bob Dylan." Here's what he said about Dylan:
The greatest album, ever?

Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" (1965) No matter how many times you might have heard it, a different song will appear as primary, the star around which everything else revolves - it could be "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," one day, "Ballad of a Thin Man" the next, the title song for the next year, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" a year later, each different song casting all the others into a different relief. Then "Desolation Row" might make you forget that there's anything else on the album at all. But if the album were simply "Like a Rolling Stone" and 30 or 40 minutes of silence, I still might pick it.

22 comments:

The Crack Emcee said...

That Dylan review is proof the man is whack. The best thing about Dylan, at this point, is that he doesn't share in your worship of him.

It's starting to appear pretty unhinged.

shoutingthomas said...

Yes, please God, Ann.

Listen to something else for a change.

Every professional hippie 60s relic in the country named their kid Dylan.

Listen, Dylan is OK.

Give it a break. Some of the new country music is worth listening to.

Get Sirius satellite radio and try the Willie Nelson channel. It's not all Willie. It's related stuff. Listen to the Outlaws channel.

I'd point you in some other directions, but it appears that your interest in music is, to put it as politely as possible, minimal.

Chase said...

Don't diss Dylan.

ricpic said...

My input, for what it's worth, since I've never taught, is that if the teacher through thought and practice has developed a particularly effective way of making a particular point he/she should make it, rather than waiting for a student to make it half-assedly.

ricpic said...

I just heard Johnny Cash singing Ghost Riders In The Sky on our local country and western station. Blows Dylan outta the water

Ann Althouse said...

Come on. I put the Dylan stuff after the break. Skip it if you don't care. Talk about teaching.

The Crack Emcee said...

What's to talk about? I agree with the teaching lesson, not with the review of Dylan. You put it in there for a reason. And that reason is?

You're obsessed - and regressing back to being a fucking hippie.

Let it go.

John Burgess said...

You mean there's someone other than Dylan Thomas with the name Dylan? How peculiar...

Earth Girl said...

I agree with ricpic about teaching. It's a seminar and I've paid good money and invested my time to attend primarily because of the knowledge and skill of the lecturer. It irritates me to have know-nothings and blowhards in the audience waste my time trying to reach a point that the lecturer could have made quicker and better. Once made, the seminar could continue building my knowledge. Who cares about killing discussion? I think discussion is overrated as a means of teaching. Discussions come after the lecture, not during the lecture.

DADvocate said...

I just heard Johnny Cash singing Ghost Riders In The Sky on our local country and western station. Blows Dylan outta the water

I began listening to Cash about the time Highway 61 Revisited came out. I still listen to Cash (the only person in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Music Writer's Hall of Fame), but not Dylan.

edutcher said...

Good teaching advice:

From my dad, "Look it up". That is, get in the habit of doing your own research so people can't sell you a bill of goods.

From my old 4th, 5th, and 6th grade arithmetic teacher and 6th grade home room, Charlie Boning, "You'll find a use for everything you learn". And I have, pretty much.

Also, "You don't go to college to learn how to make a living. You go to college to learn how to live". Take a lit course, art appreciation, psych. Stuff that will broaden your horizons.

And, finally, when dealing with mathematical issues, "Of means times". Gotten me out of a couple of spots over the years.

Ann Althouse said...

The temptation to just say it (which I yield to all the time).

I have a feeling many of us would love to know to which other temptations you always yield.

PS Agree with DADvocate about "Ghost Riders". Johnny's reading and instrumentation are incredible.

Sheepman said...

The best thing about Dylan, at this point, is that he doesn't share in your worship of him.

Althouse doesn't worship Dylan. If so she's committed blasphemy numerous times on her blog.

She's also not anywhere near being a Dylan fanatic. She just has a healthy interest in the greatest artist of her lifetime.

Zach said...

I've never taught a seminar, but a lot of times when you're teaching one on one, it can be better to just shut up or else ask neutral questions. A natural reaction when you're uncomfortable with the problem is to mumble a little bit and wait for the teacher to bail you out. Tentativeness is a natural reaction when you're just learning something, but an overly quick answer by the teacher can turn tentativeness into loss of confidence.

Chip Ahoy said...

Or you could also try reverse psychology. When a good point arises in your mind that must be made do not resist the urge to say.

"Now, whatever you idiots do, make sure you that you do not even for one moment ever consider ______. "

Methadras said...

Did Meade dress up as Dylan for you this Halloween so you could act out your fantasies?

jr565 said...

I guess you had to be in the 60's to like Dylan. Me, I could never get into his music. I appreciate his place, but don't seek out his music (though some of the individual songs are enjoyable - Don't Think Twice, Hurricane). I actually like cover versions of a lot of his stuff more than him singing it. For example, I can listen to the Byrds a lot more than I can listen to Dylan. But that's because the Byrds had harmonies and choruses, and jangly guitars.

Kirby Olson said...

Well, most students aren't listening, they're thinking about something else -- food, sex, death, etc. -- and will say back what you said five minutes later thinking it's theirs, which is fine, too.

Five minutes is a long time to wait for something to be said in a class. Five seconds of down time can seem like an eon.

David said...

"Five minutes is a long time to wait for something to be said in a class. Five seconds of down time can seem like an eon."

It's hard to remember that silence can be your friend before an audience. Even harder to do. But if you can pull it off, it's better than almost anything you can say.

One of the reasons I hate the talking heads on TV.

Edward R. Murrow: "This . . . . . . is . . . . . . . . London."

Kirby Olson said...

2 seconds can be friendly. 4 seconds can be deadly.

Well, Carson made silence work. He would look at the camera and shrug. Very effective.

It would be fun to talk as if the sound was turned off, complete with gestures. I might try it tomorrow.

AST said...

Funny, that's pretty much how I react to Steely Dan albums.

Joan said...

When I was student teaching last spring, I wrote "WAIT" in 4-inch letters at the top of my lecture notes to remind me to slow down, give the students time to process, and let someone other than the 2 brightest kids in the class come up with the answer. It helped a lot.

If you've covered the material already, and the students have done the reading, discussion is where you can really push their level of understanding. With junior high kids this is a hit-or-miss proposition; some days waiting pays off, some days no one is getting in, and they're better off with me giving them a leading question or two to get their brains moving.

It's hard for teachers to wait. The thing we have the least of and that we most need more of is time, and waiting, even 10 seconds, seems like too much to sacrifice. IMO, it's good advice to wait.

traditionalguy said...

This waiting for others to contribute is good wisdom. It does require a verbal restraint that some find hard to master. My wife's favorite quip to me is "Don't speak your thoughts". Others move more like molasses while assholes run verbal circles around them. But if a speedy thinker will learn to restrain himself, then he will be thought to be a brilliant fellow. I watched Elliott Spitzer restrain himself for a week and was impressed. Then I watched him the second week and he had become a pushy jerk jumping on others without letting them answer. We all need this training to go along with the quick thinking blessing or curse.