The average lecture or tutorial is 50 minutes long. The average cup of espresso is one fluid ounce drawn in 30 to 40 seconds and, if you are an Italian, drunk in one second.

Yes, sorry, this is another post on the relationship between coffee and theology, I was just sitting drinking this good espresso with my books around me and thinking about what to write and out it came. But humour me, I am also trying to say something important here.

This comparison between a lecture and an espresso raises a number of questions. A cheeky first could be “which do you prefer?” The answer to which would, for many, depend on the quality of the lecture and the quality of the coffee.

A better question would be “How can we combine the two?” And I have done that many times in tutorials and supervisions to which my students down the years will testify. Hopefully, a number reading this will agree that they went away with a love of theology and coffee, hopefully in that order.

But the question I really want to ask is “Why is one so long and complicated and the other so short, simple and powerful?”

Of course, lectures and tutorials have to be long and reasonably complicated, but they also should each be regarded as a single powerful experience of the subject presented. It is not the main task of a lecturer to pass on a lot of facts or views, although these may be present. The task of the lecturer is to get the students to experience the subject, to see, with awe, it constructed in front of them, to catch the enjoyment and emotion of a love, to taste it, enjoy it and come away saying I need more of that.

Our first job is to make the students feel the one powerful, delightful thing of the subject itself.

Only someone who is in love with coffee can, in the end be trusted to make a wonderful espresso and one bad experience of a poor espresso could put off a person from bothering to order it again. Only someone in love with their subject should be entrusted to stand up in front of our students and give them a love of their own and a desire for more.

The ultimate judgment on an espresso’s quality is intensity, the simple power of one thing lovingly shared. Much of the contents of the feedback forms we ask students to fill out are irrelevant to good teaching, or at least do not adequately test it. Maybe a question on intensity of experience would go some way to solving the problem.

And, of course, another question on the quality of the coffee.

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One Comment on “Intensity”

  1. Dayo Adewoye Says:

    While I mostly drink tea and not coffee, I do share your thoughts! And I believe it is important for a good teacher to be interested in his subject. Thanks for the cup of wisdom.

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