January 22, 2019

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3.24).

Sebald Beham, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, from Martin Luther’s prayer book (1527). (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

8.00 am: A communion. It’s not the role of the teacher to either flatter the student, or improve them, or massage their sense of self-importance, or encourage the idea that they’ll succeed, if only they’d try harder. Rather, responsible tuition sets before the learner the high standards of attainment, reflected in the criteria of assessment (of which they inevitably fall short), and points them towards the knowledge and the resources that they need to fulfil them. God’s law (the Ten Commandments) was given to convince us of our incompetence. We can’t fulfil it; the bar is set too high. The law mocks, as it were, even our best efforts and intentions, and cannot, of itself, make us any better than we are. That wasn’t its design. But like a diligent and compassionate teacher, the law doesn’t abandon its students to frustration and despair. Rather, the law leads them by the hand to one who has passed the examination with full marks on their behalf. Academically speaking, this would constitute unfair practice. Spiritually speaking, God’s provision is, similarly, as unwarranted and undeserved as it is unexpected. Mercy and grace trump protocol. In order to fulfil the criteria of assessment, the student must abandon trying and, instead, begin trusting.

9.00 am: I wasn’t due at the School to conduct further assessments until lunchtime. The morning was given over to further work on a book chapter. My other objectives today were to complete all the assessment admin for which I’m responsible, and initiate my teaching preparations and roster for next week. 11.30 am: Off to the School with my electric guitar (boxed) in hand, in readiness to be dispatched to the luthier for a refit and MOT.

12.00 pm: Off to town to procure ‘chalkboard paint’ (aka ‘blackboard paint’) – a sumptuously dead-matt substance – and combustibles to sustain me over a working lunch. There’re moments of ecstasy that come unannounced, wherein the unknowable future, the challenges of the present, and hopes deferred are accepted with joy, patience, confidence, and anticipation. I sense the coming of snow.

12.45 pm: a battle with the new mark-upload software. (AAAhhhh!!!!) 1.10 pm: Back to assessing. The best work we’ve seen over the past few weeks resonates with art history. How can one make art other than through art? If you create in a vacuum, you create vacuous work.

2.30 pm: Back at homebase and on with the chapter, again. I recalled an anecdote about one of our former Vice Chancellors. He was an eminent professor who could switch between his administrative and teaching duties, on the one hand and scholarly writing, on the other, in a heartbeat. That required immense discipline, concentration, dedication, and a sense or urgency. I’ve sought to emulate his example in my own working practice. John Martyn’s Solid Air (1973) played in the background.

7.30 pm: Teaching preparation and further assessment and postgraduate administration. If I could clear my desk by bedtime, then I’d be able to rise to a day in the studio tomorrow. A wonderful prospect!

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January 21, 2019
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