Living by the Rhythms of the Academic Calendar

Some people divide time by seasons, some people by weeks and months, but I live according to semesters. Instead of saying that something happened “last year,” I am more likely to say that it happened “two semesters ago.” If I do use the term “last year,” I probably mean last school year, not last calendar year.

One of the things I enjoy most about teaching is the rhythm of the academic calendar. I don’t hear this talked about much, but I have lived my life to that rhythm. I started school when I was five years old. After I graduated from high school, I went right into college, and then I went directly to graduate school, and then I started my full-time teaching career that continues to this day. So for the last 46 years, I have been on the academic calendar either as a student or a professor (and sometimes both at the same time).

The Rhythm of Individual Courses

Not only does the school year have a particular rhythm, but each individual course has its own reassuring pattern as well. The course I have taught most consistently over the years is an upper-division course called American Literature Since 1865. I have taught it for all of my 22 years at Azusa Pacific University, and I taught it several times at Olivet Nazarene University before that. We study about 50 authors in that course. Some of the individual authors and works change from semester to semester, but the bulk of the readings remain the same. I now associate particular authors with certain times of year. I start the course with Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, so I always associate that book with Continue reading

Why I Write (by John Small)

Editor’s Note: This post is the second in a series that will feature former students of mine who have become professional writers. I asked each of them to focus on the topic, “Why I Write.” Today’s post features my friend and former student, John Small, whom I met during my early years of teaching at Olivet Nazarene University in the mid-1980s. I taught journalism and literature and advised the student newspaper. John was editor-in-chief of the paper and did excellent work. He has continued to thrive as a journalist ever since. (To see the first post in this series, by Dr. Michael Clark, scroll down or click here.)  

Greetings. My name is John Small; I am the news editor and columnist for the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, a weekly small town news paper headquartered in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. I met Joe Bentz while were were both at Olivet Nazarene University; age-wise we are contemporaries, but I was the student and he was my college advisor and journalism professor and I worked with him at the campus newspaper, the GlimmerGlass. We both left the same year as I recall, he to take his job at Azusa Pacific and I to take the job here. Always makes me think there was a reason we were both there at the same time, but I suppose that’s a topic for another time…


by John Small

It occurs to me that there is no one easy answer to that question.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate enough to have parents who both love to read, and they saw to it that I earned to read as a much younger age than the other kids my age. My mother claims my love of writing stems from that; the story she likes to tell is that I started writing my own stuff because we ran out of things at the house for me to read. That certainly sounds like something I would have done.

My late younger brother Jimmy always said I took up writing as a defense mechanism. When you’re the lone bookworm in a class overflowing with jocks and jerks you tend to get picked on a lot – but the picking lessens considerably when they realize you’re the only one who can help them with their term papers.

My wife Melissa likes to say I became a writer to get her attention. That’s not entirely true, as I was writing long before I met her; on the other hand, why argue with success.

My own feeling is that I became a writer because Continue reading