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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Timing Is Everything

Word of the day: Serendipity (noun).  One dictionary definition of 'serendipity' is good fortune or luck.  This is true, but it lacks something: For something to be truly serendipitous, there must be a definite element of good timing.  Finding a $20 bill on the ground is lucky.  Finding a $20 bill on the floor of McDonald's after you've already placed your order and just realized that you left your wallet at home is serendipitous (at least, insofar as the ability to purchase a super-sized Big Mac meal can be considered a piece of good fortune).

I had a moment of true teacher-serendipity the other day.  I was about to read a student's essay draft.  I knew I was going to have to make extensive comments on this student's draft.  Suddenly, my e-mail "pinged": The student whose essay I was about to read, informing me that she needed to withdraw from the class!

Now, I wasn't happy to see the student go, but, if she was going to drop, I'm glad it happened before I spent time and energy reading the essay; far too often, things work out the other way.  The teacher spends an inordinate amount of time grading work that is never picked up because the student has dropped the class without telling anyone.  At least my student was considerate.

What's the opposite of serendipity?  If you ask Alanis Morrisette, it's irony--the free ride, when you've already paid.  That's wrong, by the way: There's nothing ironic about that situation, it's just questionable luck.  I guess the opposite of serendipity would be a full-throated, Homer Simpson-y, "D'oh!"

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