Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Great Teacher

I love my Visual Communications teacher from last semester, Claude Cookman. He sent about 2 emails per week consistently though out the semester, and the following is his final email to our class. He is so awesome, he has had to be disqualified from all of the "Best Teacher Competitions" because he is so awesome. See for your self, and feel free to check out his new book too!

Hello, Gang,

Your grades have been submitted to the Registrar. According to the message below from OneStart, you should be able to access them online after 7 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday).

After sending you e-mails all semester, I've come to the last one.

I won't belabor what I said on the last day of class except to repeat that it has been a great joy sharing J210 with you this semester. The excellent work you've done on your assignments gives me great delight. I have a deep affection for each of you.

I do want to share one final thought that you can put in your life-skills file:

Recently I started rereading a book entitled "Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience." It's by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a former professor at the University of Chicago, who spent his career studying the psychology of creativity.

His book describes those occasions when we concentrate so intently on a task that we lose all awareness of time and the outside world. He calls this situation "flow." Having talked with you, read your essays and observed you in the Multimedia Lab, I think many of you experienced flow in J210 this semester.

Csikszentmihalyi argues that happiness doesn't result from the money, possessions or fame we acquire. Instead, he maintains, we are most happy during these periods of intense work. He writes:

"The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen."

I have tried to persuade you this semester that grades -- which are an external reward, or punishment, determined by somebody who can never really know what you learned or how hard you worked -- are not significant. I have encouraged you to work for the internal rewards of pleasing yourself and producing projects you feel proud of.

To say this a different way, I urge you to stop trying to please your teachers while you're still in college and to not fall into the trap of trying to please your supervisors when you enter your career. Instead, do the work the best you possibly can for its own sake. Take authority over your learning now and over your work in the future. I believe this is the only way for you to be a complete person.

Because this message runs contrary to everything you have heard from your parents, teachers, our educational system, indeed, our entire society, I have no illusions that I have convinced all of you. Nonetheless, I hope you stay open on this issue of what constitutes true value in the realm of learning and work.

For me personally, Csikszentmihalyi is right. I feel my very best when I'm totally absorbed in my teaching or my research. The pay, the recognition, the external rewards do not compare to the satisfaction that comes from doing meaningful work well for its own sake.

It's my fervent wish that each of you finds this same satisfaction in your careers.

Please keep me posted on your successes.

Fondest regards,


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