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This is one of a series of my writings about retirement and being an emeritus professor. I am experimenting with Grammarly to improve some earlier writing. 

“What factors entered into your decision to retire?” I am often asked (indeed, my Brother Bruce asked me a while 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 seriously began thinking about it in December of 2009 when I wrote the following piece. So evident, 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 the formal date of my departure more seriously and what I would like to accomplish before I leave. I hope to go healthy and at a high point in my teaching career, feeling good about my extended Carroll family and the Carroll 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 as I once did. 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 yet intend to read. It’s fun and instructive to rediscover where I and the institution have been. The 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 throughout my life. As I have documented in several earlier blogs, I struggle with how technology may affect the nature and enjoyment 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 readers to support this endeavor and 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 Visiting friend Mary T. 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. Dogged determination.

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, our psychology significant students, and the institution. On the other hand, there is such a substantial 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 studied most of my life.

Should I not instead be teaching an additional upper-level course, such as advanced statistical procedures, or be involved in the development of web-based surveys? Should I not be creating a new system as I did when I made a course on “Happiness,” or my course on “Why War?” or my “Pioneering Web 2.0 Internet Tools”? I’d love to create a lecture on “Kindness.” I’d welcome the opportunity to teach or to team-teach an interdisciplinary course. Still, in each of these instances, I must either teach an overload (which Carroll discourages) or NOT teach a lesson   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 I don’t fully understand, I am especially enjoying teaching PSY101, Introductory Psychology. Is my enjoyment a random event? Does student self-selection bias cause me? Due to the time of day (noon)? Proof of the standard curve? Delusional on my part? Attributable to most of the students being upper-level students? A dream? A SIGN that it is time to fold my tent and 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? My mind wanders.