Provost Peter Laipson back in the classrrom

I’ve always loved teaching. I entered education in the first place because I wanted to make possible for others the engagement – and, every so often, epiphany – that characterized my own time as a student. So it was with particular pleasure that I spent this summer preparing to co-teach Seminar III,  the final course of our general education sequence.

Well, pleasure mixed with trepidation. The Sem III syllabus is formidable – 11 books plus a fat collection of articles – titles include Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman, and more. I was surprised to realize how many of the assigned texts I had not read before, including a few classics. (Remembering David Lodge’s satirical novel Changing Places, in which an academic gets so caught up in a parlor game that he confesses to never having read Hamlet and loses his job, I’ll let discretion be the better part of valor about the precise gaps in my intellectual preparation!)

If I over-prepared by reading everything on the syllabus this summer, I did so because I know from both personal experience and colleagues’ stories that you need to bring your ‘A’ game at Simon’s Rock. Like almost all classes here, Sem III is truly a seminar, in which students do the intellectual heavy lifting: they come to class with incisive observations about the texts assigned for that session. Yet the instructor has a distinctive and important role – to focus discussion, to suggest critical points that student readers may have missed, and to link comments to one another and to the themes of the course as a whole.

The semester is just beginning, but the reality is proving even more rewarding than the anticipation. The students in our course are not just prepared but insightful, and their observations are opening up the texts for me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. The teaching is just as fun as expected, but the learning even more so.

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