Happy Labour Day Monday! I hope you are all enjoying your long weekend. My weekend has been jam-packed with course prep and dealing with a sudden surge of patrons at the bar as students move back into town to start the new school year.
I’ve learned to embrace the adage that “if you want to learn something, teach it.” By this, I mean that there is no better way to learn and master a concept as when you must transmit that information to someone else in a way that makes sense to them. Not only do you need to know the material inside and out, but you must also learn to fill in gaps as they arise.
At present, I’m trying to finish up my instructional plan for my course. The first lesson is this coming Friday, and I’m both nervous and excited. I’m nervous because I fear that I’ll be an inadequate teacher for this crop of mostly first-year students; that their introduction to philosophy will be botched by my inexperience and poor planning. But I’m also excited, because I have some confidence in my skills, and it’s a new and exciting challenge that I want to face.
With less than a week to go, I have 27 students enrolled in my class. When I look into their various programs, I get a wide range of learners, from science, recreation, business, IT, security, etc. All of these faces are unique individuals who will need to sync with my lecture material. My challenge is to teach philosophy to a class of college kids who probably are taking my course because it sounds interesting and they need breadth courses to graduate. In other words, I need to pluck philosophy from the clouds and bring it down to the “real world” in a way that makes sense to them. I can’t just stand at the front of the room and pontificate in their general direction. I’ll need to be smarter than that if I have any hope of them passing the learning objectives.
Instead, I’ll need to engage them dialectically. I’ll need to choose non-academic examples to connect their experience with. I’ll need to prove to them that these questions and problems are not only relevant to them, but incredibly important to their lives; they need to take the material seriously. In an age of constant distraction and competing media on their attention, I’ll need to come to class prepared every Friday afternoon to fight and earn their attention.
Talk about a tall order!
Oh, and because a lot of this material is stuff I wasn’t exposed to in school, I also have to teach myself the course material!
Oh well. Here goes.