Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanks to My Teachers, Part 5: Robert Delisle

When I started graduate school at Lehman College, I had been out of the university for nearly three years. I didn't have much of a plan other than expanding my knowledge. 

But that all changed when I met Professor Robert Delisle, who was the Chair of the School of Education. Bob (his preferred name) oriented me to a student-centered education, which basically advises teachers to focus not on their subject knowledge but on their students' needs. This distinction goes far beyond semantics. Once in this mindset, teachers will examine first their students' aspirations, concerns, and knowledge. Equipped with this information, they will then adapt their content, instructional methods, and evaluation instruments accordingly, enabling their students to achieve success. 

This pedagogical approach served me well when I left job as a marketing director in a nonprofit agency in 1996 to begin my educational consulting firm. I strongly believe that caring about clients above all else by customizing programs to address their needs has kept me in business more than 17 years later.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanks to My Teachers, Part 4: Grace Schulman

Grace Schulman was my professor in an American Novel class at Baruch College when I was an English major. She had a knack for pointing out the imagery evoked in the fiction of writers such as Cather, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Steinbeck. 

A renowned poet, scholar, and teacher, Schulman has published six volumes of poetry over three decades. Her work continues to inspire me, so much so that I once asked for her permission to include one of her poems, "Losses," in my play "Isn't This the Way You Wanted Me?" She graciously accommodated me. She writes magically about what it means to be a woman, a Jew, and an intellectual in a male-dominated, secular, and materialistic society. I was fortunate to be one of her students. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thanks to My Teachers, Part 3: Charles Lynch

As a student at Baruch College in New York City, I had the deep pleasure of attending a Twentieth Century American Literature class of Charles Lynch, a poet and doctoral student. He was only ten years older than I but knew so much about poets of the Beat, Confessional, Student, and Black Consciousness movements. In Charles's class (we remain on a first-name basis today), I read Robert Creeley's "I Know a Man" and "The Language"; Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," "A Supermarket in California," and "America"; Nikki Giovanni's "Adulthood" and "Nikki Rosa"; Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," and Diane Wakoski's "Blue Monday."

Charles eventually became a tenured professor at Jersey City State College, from where he will soon retire after a lifetime of teaching excellence. I am indebted to him for the wisdom he imparted, his interest in my life, and his enduring friendship.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanks to My Teachers, Part 2; Robert Doyle

The Art and Music Appreciation class I took as a junior in St. Helena's High School, now Monsignor Scanlan High School, made a big difference in my life. Mr. Robert Doyle, the teacher, introduced me to Gustav Holst's The Planets, Krzysztof Penderecki's Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, Impressionism, Surrealism, and many more artists, artworks, and artistic movements. I can say with certainty that Mr. Doyle opened me to a creative world that I did not know existed and showed me the infinite possibilities of art.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Thanks to My Teachers, Part 1: Frank Kleinbub

As we are in the midst of Thanksgiving, this post and the seven that follow are shout-outs to extraordinary teachers who educated and inspired me throughout my academic career. I mention eight masters, two each from my high school, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral years.

Going back to Saint Helena's High School in the Bronx, now Monsignor Scanlan High School, I remember Mr. Frank Kleinbub as an especially influential teacher during my teen years. He knew his stuff as a literature teacher, was great at sparking class discussions about our readings, and even better as a synthesizer of the author's text and the students' commentary.

One favor for which I remain especially grateful was the job interview he granted me when he became an assistant principal of the school and I was a recent college graduate looking for a teaching job. Although he was not hiring at the time, he suggested that I come to his office so that he could offer interview tips. That's what real educators do.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

More Sound Writing Advice from Master Writers

The nineteenth century British writer Isaac D'Israeli said, "The wise make proverbs and fools repeat them." I am not here to argue with a wise man, because his point is well taken. 

So just read the proverbs and don't repeat them, OK? You can get some great advice from writers, which you might also find inspirational. At WORDS ON THE LINE, I offer additional wisdom about writing here

Friday, November 01, 2013

Taking That Early Walk: The War Memorials

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza next to 55 Water Street.
Photos by Philip Vassallo
One of the great pleasures of working frequently in New York City is viewing the spectacular monuments that grace all parts of town. Two that I have seen many times and remain magnificent in my imagination are the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Plaza and the Korean War Veterans Memorial, each a short walk from the other, at the southern tip of Manhattan.

As I mentioned in previous posts, leaving the house early and taking a short walk are great ways for writers to generate ideas or break writer's block. But I can think of two other reasons besides writing inspiration to visit these sites: to experience their sheer beauty and educational value.

The Vietnam Veteran's site, which overlooks the East River next to the 55 Water Street office building, is a masterpiece of urban landscaping, horticulture, architecture, literature, and history. On a 70-foot-long and 16-foot-high wall of green, translucent glass blocks (photo above, lower left) are engraved excerpts of 83 letters by United States soldiers serving in Vietnam written to their loved ones back home. The words evoke a vast range of emotions, from confusion to protest to pride to grief. Along the plaza is a perfectly cultivated, bright floral garden. A Walk of Honor (photo above, upper left and right) comprises 12 granite pylons on which are engraved the names of the 1,741 New Yorkers who gave their lives in Vietnam. Especially moving are individual plaques dedicated to Marine Private First Class Dan Bullock, who at age 15 was the youngest casualty; Medal of Honor recipient Naval Lieutenant Father Vincent R. Capodanno, who died during a battle while ministering to his wounded and dying comrades; and Army Specialist Four George C. Lang, who survived the war and was also a Medal of Honor recipient for heroics on the battlefield. 

The Korean War Memorial (pictured below from both sides), next to the Hudson River and within view of the Statue of Liberty, is a 15-foot-high granite block with a Korean War soldier cut from its center. It is a stunning blend of fine art in a natural metropolitan setting, stirring memories of what has been called "the forgotten war." As one walks around it, the soldier becomes a shifting foreground for a skyscraper, the trees in Battery Park, and the sky. What remain constant are the flags of nations across the globe that were involved in the Korean conflict and the image of an everyman at war.

I cannot walk away from these monuments without thinking of humanity's ingenuity and savagery and our hope and despair. If you are in the area, be sure visit, reflect, and write. 

New York Korean War Veterans Memorial in Battery Park.
Photos by Philip Vassallo