Skip to main content
by Troy Schuknecht

 

“How was your year?” 

“It was good. Yours?” 

“It was good.”

I have attended the Society for Classical Learning conference annually since 2008 and while it is always a highlight of my year, the first half day tends to be dedicated to the same conversation ad nauseam. I understand why it is needed; time has passed since we last saw one another and social conventions prevent us from an immediate deep dive. 

Never one to procrastinate, especially in things I dread, I hope my conference friends will accept this answer, written in advance so that we can get to the business of being formed through the rich conversation about worthy things that will undoubtedly mark the remainder of our time together. Before I get to that answer, I wish to lay a quick foundation for it.

At the heart of the question at hand is the passage of time. Time is not merely quantitative, but qualitative. You should find it odd were I to boldly proclaim “it was nine months in duration” as my response to “how was your year?” We intuit the preeminence of the qualitative element in the passing of time.

My musings on this topic brought me to an interesting conversation in the book Moonwalking With Einstein, by Joshua Foer. While telling his tale as a journalist turned competitor at the US Memory Championships and repopularizing the ancient memory palace, he recounts numerous other interesting conversations. One such conversation, with a competitor named Ed Cooke, deals with the subject of psychological time and his desire to expand subjective time such that one experiences what feels like a longer life.

“‘And how are you going to do that?’ I asked 

‘By remembering more. By providing my life with more chronological landmarks. By making myself more aware of time’s passage.’

I told him that his plan reminded me of Dunbar, the pilot in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 who reasons that since time flies when you’re having fun, the surest way to slow life’s passage is to make it as boring as possible.

Ed Shrugged. ‘Quite the opposite. The more we pack our lives with memories, the slower time seems to fly.’”

After telling the story of Michel Siffre’s self-experimentation in a dark cave wherein “his experience of time’s passage had compressed by a factor of two, Foer offers the following conclusion.

“Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthy and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next – and disappear…Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.”

In a sense, my work in classical Christian education has lengthened my life. When I spent the summer of 1996 as a lifeguard, time dragged on and was completely unmemorable. Convinced that an hour had passed, I would glance at the clock and find my estimation fourfold shy. The opposite is true in my work as an educator. Yet while the days fly by, they are filled with meaning and nuance such that the passage of time is easy to mark. 

The work of an educator is infused with formative rhythms that mark each day, week, month, and year. In addition to forming us, these rhythms provide built-in chronological landmarks that increase our perceived lifespan. The nature of the work is such that novelty abounds. Even more importantly, the purpose of our work infuses each moment with meaning. If the mundane is forgettable, our work is inherently memorable.

With that foundation laid, I believe we are ready to have the conversation. 

You ask “How was your year?”

“My year was filled with meaningful, memorable, and worthwhile work. My life is full and purposeful as a direct result of the good work to which God has called me. We enjoyed the privilege of both watching God move in our midst and of active participation in it.” 

“That is wonderful.”

“But wait, there is more that should be said. This worthwhile work was done in a community of people I love, who love me well, who have earned my respect personally and professionally, and who I genuinely like being around.”

“It sounds like you are in a great place. Was there anything unique about this year in particular?”

“Oh yes. God granted our school a tranquil and unified year. Though a year of trials can also be called good when viewed through a perspective focused by distance, God saw fit to grant us a year marked by peace and one in which our collective passion for the mission became palpable. For that, we are grateful. 

In short, my year was good. 

How was yours?”

Annual Offerings Booklet

As a member, you receive access to all of the most recent summer conference content, including 80+ workshops, plenary speakers, etc., plus access to the full library of past content.

Conference Sessions

Ensure increased visibility for your school by having it listed on the Find a School Map, connecting you with potential students and families seeking a classical Christian learning environment.

Map Feature

Unlock a wealth of exclusive resources, such as research studies and articles, providing valuable insights and knowledge for your school's continuous improvement.

Resources

Enable your school to easily post job openings and attract qualified candidates with the Career Center, simplifying the hiring process.

Career Center

Enjoy exclusive discounts on all SCL events and services, empowering you to access valuable resources and opportunities for your school's growth at a more affordable cost.

Exclusive Discounts

Get access to exclusive cohorts and workshops!

Cohorts and Workshops

SCL conducts school-wide surveys to provide relevant information to the classical Christian community as well as access to in-depth research with partner organizations like the Barna Group.

Research

A connected community of classical Christian thought leaders, including heads of school, board members, marketing and admissions directors, development and fundraising directors, academic deans, grammar and upper school heads, and teachers from all grade levels are here to support and encourage one another.

Community

Member-exclusive Coaching Call sessions. 15-20 online sessions each year from key-thought leaders on topics ranging from legal and operational issues to pedagogical and philosophical discussions. Think of it as a mini-conference each month!

Coaching Calls

Gain new insight, knowledge, and skills around best practices in a short, intensive format with workshops or a year-long mentorship experience with cohorts. Designed for administrators, teachers, parents, leaders, and department heads – anyone seeking to learn and grow in their role.

Conference & Workshops

Our network of seasoned professionals is available to navigate your questions and brainstorm solutions with you. Let us know how you want to direct your time and we will pair you with the senior leader that best suits your school’s unique needs.

Consulting