Saturday, January 28, 2023
HomePhilosophyGraduate Pupil Reflection Collection: Ode to Chalk

Graduate Pupil Reflection Collection: Ode to Chalk


Nothing sounds extra like a classroom to me than the rhythm of chalk on a chalkboard.

Actually, I affiliate only a few sounds with schooling in any respect. There’s the sound of the bell that marks the start and finish of sophistication, and there’s the commencement track “Pomp and Circumstance,” however these sounds are usually related extra with the tip of an academic expertise—and the aid that comes from reaching it—fairly than the expertise itself.

The sound chalk makes on a board has a sample to it. It’s received two distinct sound teams, like Morse code: the brief tock-tock-taps and the lengthy chhhssshhhs. It’s heat and rhythmic, with pauses and variation, not relentless and vibrant just like the kssssckkk of static from a tv. Static masks noise. The sound of chalk brings your consideration in; its rhythm is hypnotizing… or not less than it has that potential. It could actually focus the listener with its regularity and heat; it may be used to emphasise factors by cadences introduced out by the variations in sounds. It’s percussive and instrumental.

I’ve had two professors with very placing boardwork. Tom Wieting’s was impeccable and stylish; Ralf Bader’s summary and maniacally lovely. Proper there on the board, we might see a mapped-out illustration of how their minds organized concepts—or not less than it felt that method. Wieting would choose up the items gently and situate them, with astonishingly good freeform traces and curves. Bader would shove the items round, making little nests of symbols and diagrams.

Prof. Tom Wieting and his chalkboard.

It’s no shock that a big a part of one’s chalkboard model is sure up in how that individual makes use of the chalk, however equally as essential is how that individual erases it. Wieting sectioned his board, and when a brand new concept wanted to come back in, he would calmly, slowly, and decidedly swipe throughout full sections in silence with the eraser. Bader would fill your entire board with etchings and erase in a circle within the center together with his hand, making a halo of chalk across the concept he wished to deliver out in that second. For Bader, no concept essential sufficient to make it to the board was ever absolutely erased. It made up the background surroundings, that nest or halo for the brand new thought. Each kinds had been extraordinarily efficient, however in fully reverse methods.

Photographs of Prof. Ralf Bader’s board.

Every instructing medium emphasizes and suppresses completely different elements of studying. PowerPoints emphasize visuals and animations, fast bullet-point info. When completed effectively and in sure contexts, it effectively and successfully communicates details, details college students can typically reference once more later.

I’ve all the time felt at odds with the model of PowerPoint. It’s constraining and static to me; I find yourself focusing an excessive amount of of my time on model and flash over the content material and the best way to talk it. And once I’m on the opposite finish of a PowerPoint presentation, once I’m the one watching fairly than giving the discuss, I really feel very visually disconnected from the speaker and her considering course of. It makes me marvel if PowerPoint simply emphasizes one thing that the viewers can discover on-line, and in an typically extra accessible method. I’ve seen fascinating PowerPoints—however not many—and no lovely ones.

I assume that—in most disciplines—the onerous half is studying the method, not the details. It’s simpler to know {that a} assertion is true or {that a} theorem may be confirmed than it’s to know why it’s true or how it may be confirmed. Proofs can really feel alien and random. Chalk slows us down. Even when it takes longer to get to the punch, boardwork can assist deliver out the strategies of the self-discipline. The trainer is located to make errors, to troubleshoot, to suppose in actual time, and the scholar watches that course of unfold.

You possibly can most likely think about already that Wieting’s boardwork was clear and regular, that it was considerably jarring to see him make a mistake. His reactions to those moments had been fascinating, and humorous. He didn’t simply talk the place the error got here from and the way he would suppose by fixing it; he would genuinely have an intensely joyful response to it. He instructed us about this checklist he had on his fridge of fascinating issues he hadn’t solved and concepts he didn’t perceive; that each morning he would get up, have a look at them, and really feel impressed that there was nonetheless rather a lot left he might study. He taught us to really feel enthusiastic about what we didn’t know, not overwhelmed or intimidated. He taught us to take pleasure in our errors.

Chalk isn’t the one medium that emphasizes the method over the details—reside coding, animating, portray, or different tutorials try this too—neither is it the one medium that lays components of the trainer’s thoughts naked to the category, there are all the time markers and whiteboards.

However chalk is extra dramatic. It’s tactile and textural: sweeping curves and inflexible traces that comply with the grain of the board, flecks and puffs of mud, the smudging, the shading, the marks of ghostly residue in your garments… the sound. You possibly can strike your chalk straight into the board to attract consideration to some extent, or strike it at an angle, skipping and skidding to supply these dotted traces within the model of Walter Lewin. The very act of writing with chalk compels you to make a deliberate mark with power and conviction.

And to me, it’s nostalgic. My first experiences with chalk had been as a toddler drawing on streets and sidewalks. It was creativity, it was summer season, it was studying for that age.

A few of us lose one thing after we flip to whiteboards or slides: we lose the drama, the reliability, the sound, and the nostalgia. Perhaps it’s simply the aesthetic or the custom that I like, however I’m wonderful with that. Chalk it as much as choice.

Author headshot

Eliya Cohen

Eliya Cohen is a PhD candidate at Princeton College and an Assistant Professor within the Division of Philosophy and the Leisure Arts and Engineering Program on the College of Utah. Her analysis focuses totally on philosophical logic, metaphysics, and the philosophy of video video games.


Victoria Joy
I am an independent lady, working hard to share my ideas from my experiences to the whole world. I want people to be happier and to understand that your life is very very important. Walk with me and experience the beauty this world can offer by following simple logical steps.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments