Ch-ch-ch-changes

The autumnal equinox has passed. When the alarm goes off in the morning, it is still dark outside. Darkness falls again soon after supper, so my evening reading and writing is done with the help of electric lights. The darkness contributes to the melancholy feeling I have about some other changes that happened in my life this month.

For the last ten years, I have been an adjunct instructor for a two-year college. I have taught at a branch campus of a state university; the branch is located on military property. Some of my students have been active military personnel; some retired from the military; some spouses or children of military personnel; and some simply nearby residents taking a college class. I have had students old enough to remember the day President Kennedy was shot; I have had students too young to remember the day that terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. I’ve heard many anecdotes about military life including events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I began by teaching a course in World Religions since my degrees were in the field of religion. Most of my classes have been a survey of world history. Two nights a week for sixteen weeks I have guided students from the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China, right up to current events. Some of my students have said that they never liked history until they took my class. Others have contributed to the class by sharing personal experiences in other cultures, things they’ve been taught in other classes, and things they’ve picked up from the Internet. I hope that among my dozens of students over the last ten years, a good number have gained not merely a few new facts but a way of learning about history that helps them lead more informed and interesting lives.

My summer class and fall classes this year were canceled due to low enrollment. The administration of the state university has been promoting online learning, and it appears that we have reached the point where more students would rather learn online than in the classroom. I’m not opposed to the latest technology, but when it comes to teaching history, I prefer the classroom experience. I like to see the facial expressions and body language of the people I am teaching. I like the conversations before and after class that cover many things not related to the subject matter of the class. I like seeing students interact with one another.

This week I told the school to keep my name off the spring listing of classes. I don’t know yet whether I have taught my last college class, but the burden of preparing a class, then having it canceled at the last moment, is one I want to avoid for a while.

Meanwhile, I am driving a different car. For the last fifteen years I have been driving a 1999 Ford Escort. It had about 50,000 miles on the odometer when I bought it; it now has more than 210,000 miles. The air conditioner hasn’t worked for years, and this fall a faulty sensor started causing a warning light to flicker on and off. In a recent post I described my Escort as “a common Ford to carry me home.” I suspect that the reference to the spiritual song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” went past many of my readers.

My parents bought a Ford Granada when I was in high school. I learned how to drive on that car. When I graduated college, they gave me the car as a gift. A few years later I had the chance to buy a Mercury Sable in good condition from an elderly couple who no longer needed two cars. I sold the Granada to a man who lived on the same street as me, attended the same church, and needed a car. The Sable served well for many years, but I ended up buying the Escort fifteen years ago and selling the Sable to a high school girl who was getting her first car. The very same day I bought my current car, my daughter went to her job and heard a fellow employee say that he needed to acquire a car quickly. She told him about my Escort, he came by the house the next morning, test drove it, handed over five hundred dollars, and drove away.

The first car I test drove from the used car lot was a Ford Focus. It seemed OK when I drove it. However, before deciding on the car I asked to check the trunk. Last month two of my daughters were stranded by the side of the rode in a remote place for two hours because they had a flat tire. Although my daughter had owned the car for two years, she did not realize that there was no spare tire and no jack in the trunk. A call to 911 did not get help to them; eventually they found the number for the county sheriff and got the help they needed. Anyhow, when I opened the trunk of the Focus, I found no spare tire and sitting rainwater in the tire well. That ended my interest in the Focus.

The salesman suggested that I test drive a 2004 Honda Accord. It also handled well, it had a spare tire and no water in the trunk, and he dropped the price $1000 to match what he had been asking for the Focus. I went home that Saturday afternoon, did some research on the Accord, called him Monday to say I would buy the car, and drove it home on Tuesday. I’ve had more than a week to get used to it, and I am comfortable with the car. My Escort had a radio with a cassette tape deck, but my Accord has two radios—one with a CD player, which probably came with the car when it was new, and another with lots of lights and buttons that I don’t understand at all. It is set to a local station I enjoy, so I have not done much experimenting with it.

Though it seems strange after all these years to be in a different car—one that is not a Ford—I’m sure that I made the right decision. After all the book of Acts says several times that the first Christians were in one Accord, and what was good enough for them should be good enough for me. J.

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9 thoughts on “Ch-ch-ch-changes

  1. I hate that about moving from an actual physical classroom to that of a virtual one…but I saw this change taking place, even at the high school level, while I was still teaching. We had students who were homebound or attending “alternative” school due to some sort of bad behavior– so many of the academic classrooms had linked monitors allowing students to be a part of the class without physically being present.
    I personally like an in-person instructor…much the same reason why I still like hard copy books versus e-readers or tablets.

    The only thing I’ve ever found myself agreeing with Stephen Hawkins on was his concern regarding AI—yet how ironic that in his declining physical health…he depended on that very thing to do his talking and writing.

    Maybe it’s now time you write a history book—one that can be a hard copy as well as virtual 🙂
    Enjoy your Accord

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen Internet learning work well. For example, when a college student does math homework online, the program can respond to the student by marking problems wrong or making the student redo the problem until the answer is right, by timing the student, and by adjusting the difficulty of the questions to how the student is faring. All this information is given to the professor. But history is a little more personal, and I think it needs a personal touch. Frankly, I was shocked when students told me that they were taking a public speaking course online. J.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry that your chance to teach students seems to be ending. I have learned from experience that when one road ends, another begins for the child of God. He doesn’t leave one without use. I call it “moving from glory to glory.” What new adventure awaits on the other side of the mountain? Warning – you might have to overcome hurdles to get there. I don’t mean to be negative; it is positive when it is God’s work. Keep your eyes open for the next “glory.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • What new adventure indeed? Only the Lord knows. For the time being, though, I plan to spend the evenings I would have been in the classroom writing instead. I have two books underway: one on the book of Revelation, and the other on Christian Worship. J.

      Liked by 1 person

      • How about historical fiction? I love those, but don’t know who to trust for including basic truth. One writer I enjoyed but can’t remember his name right now. But he wrote series and I could not keep them in chronological order so gave up. – I googled. His name is Gilbert L. Morris.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve written fiction and I’ve written history, but I’ve not written historical fiction. A lot of writers and publishers are careless when they present historical fiction to the public. I once had a student think she was quoting the diary of Marie Antoinette to me when she was in fact quoting from a work of fiction in the series called Princess Diaries. J.

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