Thursday, December 07, 2006

Made It

I don’t have the hardest job in the world. The old joke—which is funny because it’s partly true—is that college teachers work 24/7: twenty-four hours a week, seven months a year.

But what IS difficult about teaching is that every day in the classroom you’ve got to create magic—or at least try to—and if you don’t, it’s sort of awful for everyone.

It’s like having to host a party day after day, only it’s a party with a theme; we’re playing charades but the clues and presentations are supposed to get more complex and increasingly challenging.

Plus, all the guests—or at least, their parents—have paid to be there and, consequently, expect to be consistently entertained and edified. It can get exhausting. At many points during the quarter, I wonder if I’m going to make it.

But I did! I have!

Today, I taught my last class of fall quarter 2006.

It went pretty well: students gave “poster presentations” in the Philosophy 101 class. Many of the works demonstrated genuine philosophical sophistication (others demonstrated genuine philosophical lassitude), and the day made me feel like I’d actually succeeded in my primary goals for the course: introducing students to the classic philosophical questions and encouraging them to begin to notice philosophy in everyday life.

I still have a bunch of grading to do. One of the saddest moments in the teacher’s life is when the students dance from the classroom at Christmastime, Easter, and as summer begins. They’re free, while you have stacks of papers to wade through before your vacation starts.

Still, I’m glad that for the next few weeks, I don’t have to host a philosophical party every day: I don’t have to ask questions, encourage answers, and incite inquiry day after day.

I can get up in the morning and do some reading, some thinking, some writing all by myself.

In other words, for a while, I can be a philosopher.


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