“What factors entered into your decision to retire?” I am often asked (indeed, my Brother Bruce asked me a few days ago.)
“Do you regret the decision?”
“Would you be willing to come out of retirement?”
“When did you first start seriously considering it?”
In answer to the last question, I appear to first seriously begin thinking about it in December of 2009 when I wrote the following piece. Obvious, Brother Bruce, I am a slow thinker!
Sometimes it seems that I have been at Carroll forever. That’s a mixed blessing especially as I think through more seriously the formal date of my departure, and what I would like to accomplish before I leave. I hope to leave healthy and at a high point in my teaching career, feeling good about my extended Carroll family and the institution.
I’ve begun cleaning out my office. I’ve gotten into better habits of eating my lunch this academic year so I found no infamous collection of uneaten sandwiches. The very act of office cleaning itself is a several years’ project since I have been such a hoarder of reports, student records, course development materials, committee work, articles written and articles read, books I meant to write, and articles I yet intend to read. It’s fun and instructive to rediscover where I and the institution have been. Such thoughtful examination gives a historical context for assessing the directions we as an institution seem to be heading. And it’s hilarious to be able to pass on to a former student (or parent who was a former student) a paper they once wrote thirty-years ago with the quip “I really SHOULD clean my office more often!”
I’ve begun to part with some of my books—especially current fiction. Books have given me so much pleasure across the course of my life. I, as I have documented in a number of earlier blogs, struggle with how technology may be affecting the nature and pleasure of the acts of thoughtful reading, critical thinking and reflective writing. I’m delighted to be a participant in the present book donation drive coordinated by the Carroll Harry Potter Club this year. I urge any readers also to support this endeavor and to visit the downtown Waukesha merchants who are also involved.
Two summers ago I was humbled at how much I have yet to learn about teaching and about learning as a friend Mary directed her, devoted blind Newfoundland dog Ernie to “rescue” me by swimming out to a rowboat (where I feigned being in distress) and towing me back to the shore.
Dogs continue to teach me so much! Some day soon I hope to be their full-time student.
I have been teaching Introductory Psychology since 1974 when I taught it for the first time at The Ohio State University. I often wonder whether that is a good use of my time—good for me, good for our psychology major students, and good for the institution. There is such a great risk that in my teaching it every semester as I have with a few exceptions since 1978, I’ll get lazy in my preparation, that I’ll get bored with the content (and communicate that boredom to my students) or that I’ll get frustrated at my having to oversimplify things I have studies most of my life.
Should I not instead be teaching an additional upper-level course such as advanced statistical procedures or the development of web-based surveys? Should I not be creating a new course as I did when I created a course on “Happiness” or my course on “Why War?” or my “Pioneering Web 2.0 Internet Tools”? I’d love to create a course on “Kindness.” I’d welcome the opportunity to teach or to team-teach an interdisciplinary course, but in each of these instances to do so I must either teach an overload (which Carroll has discouraged) or NOT teach a course I usually teach. The introductory psychology class then becomes the “expendable” one under the rationale that “anyone” or “many” can teach it.
This semester for reasons that I don’t fully understand I am especially enjoying teaching PSY101, Introductory Psychology. Is my enjoyment a random event? Caused by student self-selection bias? Due to time of day (noon)? Proof of the normal curve? Delusional on my part? Attributable to most of the students being upper classmen? A dream? A SIGN that it is time to fold my tent and to move on? A spell cast by the President of the campus Harry Potter Club who sits up front smiling? Has my classroom been bewitched by Robin the Newf who so often enchants me?