Recently the ITP faculty attended a workshop that emphasized that students feel more comfortable and work more effectively in courses where they understand the instructor’s philosophy of teaching from the beginning, so here, in a nutshell, is mine.
I always thought I was very lucky and blessed to be able to go to college and graduate school and to make a living doing stuff which, except for some necessary administrative work, was really interesting to me. I sit at my desk occasionally and think “I like to read, to talk, to think, to write, to do research, and to teach – and they pay me to do it! Wow!” By contrast, so many people must work at jobs they dislike or are bored at or make the world a worse place…
I teach this course, even though I’m old enough to retire, because I think its subject matter is interesting and important in making at least a small contribution to our individual and collective psychological and spiritual growth. That you are here at ITP, of your own volition, that you’re taking this course which is an elective, rather than required, allows me to assume that you too are really interested in its subject matter. Thus I don’t have to motivate you to keep up with the readings, to read relevant material beyond what’s required, to contribute both your enthusiasm and doubts and questions in class, and to find it a privilege to write small papers each week to share your own enthusiasm and thinking with me and your fellow students. I bring to class my interest and enthusiasm to share with you, and I’m rewarded by your interest and enthusiasm. Yes, I bing expertise in content too, but that interest and enthusiasm is more important. When I see you grappling with our material, intellectually and experientially, in class or in your papers, I feel I’m a success as a teacher!
If, God forbid, it ever reaches a point where nobody says anything interesting in class and the papers are all nothing but book reports, then it will be time to stop teaching…. I know this may happen someday if I get too old or sick, but I doubt it will happen for lack of student interest and enthusiasm.