A Letter from the Teachers

Writing this note on this very windy Mother’s Day, on the eve of the website’s premiere, I can clearly see all my mistakes: I should have been stricter with deadlines, I should have introduced them earlier to statistical data, spent less time on the history of the city, better anticipated the technological demands… Towards the end of the semester, the website took over: I had to cut some books from our planned reading list, readjust the schedule, cancel another visit.

Yet none of the mistakes invalidate a rather risky, for the freshmen course, decision made at the beginning of the term, a kind of gentlemen’s agreement: no exams, no quizzes, no tests. You, Prof., point the direction and trust that we do the work. At times, this relative lack of control made me almost sick with anxiety and doubt, as when only one post – way too long and essay-like – sat for days, lonely like an orphan, on the blog that Paul had created for us. On the other hand, listening, for example, to the students’ enthusiastic and substantial reports on their first ventures into various corners of the city, I felt proud and pleased.

Paul, thank you for being a firm rudder and helping us steer safely across the techno-seas.

Sara, Chirag, Karim, Benny, Adam, Syeda, Jamilur, Ronald, Deboleena, Elizabeth, Madeeha, Nazana, Eman, Lana, Samira, Aryeh, Erhan, Baruch, Mohammed, Joenard, Marcela, and Sean – note, how the list of your names reads like a “found poem.” Thank you for this rollercoaster ride of Spring 2010. The work you did, indeed, was plentiful and splendid. It was good to see you take possession of the blog and make it your own. To listen to how you were searching for innovative ways to present your varied experiences. To learn, together with you, a new geography of the city.

I think New York became now a larger place for all of us, at the same time more familiar yet still mysterious, still to be further explored. A city where God speaks in tongues on the streets.

– Grazyna Drabik

Working with these students and with Prof. Drabik has been an absolute pleasure. In the early weeks of class, it was not clear if the use of technology would enrich the learning experience, or become just another assignment. I had high hopes, having worked with these tools before, but I could not have predicted the fluidity with which classroom discourse would transfer into the virtual classroom online. As I write this letter, the class blog has 172 posts and 365 comments. The vast majority of these threads have been originated and maintained by the students.  This is an inspiring example of how the classroom can be expanded and enhanced via the web.

The final project, which you are viewing now, is the product of research, creativity, and dedication on the part of the students.  While it was Prof. Drabik’s vision for a website detailing the religions of New York that fueled the voyage, and my own technical support that helped us to “steer safely across the techno-seas,” this site, like the blog, reflects the great work done by the students.

Students, thank you for creativity, curiosity, and ingenuity.

Thank you, Grazyna, for your vision and for allowing me to be such a big part of your excellent class.

– Paul Riker

Music by Paul Riker – Currents; performed by the Cygnus Enselmble of NYC