Class Notes

I like the idea of keeping this log about my teaching. It will also give the curious souls in my classes ways to get indirect feedback about what we just experienced, from my point of view.

Last night my “Historical Foundations of Education” class met from 7 to 10 pm. Amazingly enough, we didn’t take a formal break. But we did take time to read and be quiet. I lectured and did board-work for at least half of the time. As a change of pace, I had them read drafts of my Primer in class before I introduced the course title. The effect seemed genuine.

It is a small class; only six enrolled and five present. But each person seemed wholly present in a way that calmed me down and gave me an unusually pleasant, peaceful feeling at the end of it. It’s amazing how vulnerable my temperament is to the personality of each class I teach. This may sound all warm and fuzzy but it is actually maddening sometimes, most of the time, verging on paranoia. Last night, though, was a rare, blessed exception. 

One student’s comment stood out. She mentioned how SHOCKED she was for me to be saying certain things, things about life and love, because I am a professor. I realized that there is a general mistrust of the professoriate, and for good reason. We are not regarded as normal human beings. And, God knows, we surely act like it.

I realize now more than ever that my vocation as a professor is principally dedicated to the task of professing my own humanity. I am not to try and be professional; I must only strive to be personal.  A person, not a professional. It is easier to do this being young. I hope I can pull it off when I’m not. 

In a small way, these notes and this site are another way to do this: allowing my students to find me as I am at my personal, self-indulgent website — not only through the projected image given to them by academia. Thankfully, I’ve had teachers who modeled this for me. I recall them now more than ever. One of them was “Stephen,” Stephen Brookfield, a “distinguished university professor” at the University of St. Thomas, where I studied from 2005 to 2007. The first professor whom I addressed by first name.

When I studied under him, Stephen had just come from Teacher’s College, at Columbia University. He was (and still is) a very big deal. He could have used all the clout and gravitas that preceded him, but he didn’t. At least not externally. His quiet, self-depricating British style exuded a true confidence and total expertise. I suppose I want to be like him when I grow up. At least in this regard, minus the British accent.

One last thing: there is a difference between being laid back and cool and super down to earth for the sake of being a total selfish asshole, and being all those things out of respect for the dignity of persons, with a sense of generosity and reverance. I know I am inclined to the former more than the latter, so there is much work to do.

SR


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