Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reflections on a semester of teaching

I've now finished my first semester back teaching. Now comes the big perk of professordom--we don't start back up until January 11. Maybe I can finish a book. :-)

1. Teaching has been a lovely change of pace! Although in some ways the day to day is more intense than as Dean, it has a punctuated nature to it. You show up somewhere then move on. Then you show up somewhere else and then move on.

I've come to view administrative work as something like an hour glass where you have this weight of sand that can only get through a trickle at a time. Administrative work never ends. You just go on vacation and then pick back up where you left off when you get back.

2. I have no regrets. Probably what I miss the most about my former job is the interaction with the whole denomination, a unique position that the seminary enjoys. One fun dimension of the seminary is that it has students who went to OKWU, Kingswood, SWU, and Houghton, beyond IWU. There is really a sense in the Seminary that you're working with ministers in the whole denomination and have access to the denomination on the highest levels.

I do miss the innovation and creative problem solving you can sometimes do when you are in a position of leadership. I should add relatively unencumbered leadership. I think there are creative juices in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) as well, but they have sometimes been somewhat submerged in the past, it seems. I think we are seeing the beginnings of a real turn-around this year with the restructuring. On the other hand, being in leadership when your hands are tied, when you think you know how to improve things or innovate but can't--that's the worst!

My friends in the seminary seem to be doing just fine under the leadership of Captain Wayne Schmidt and co-pilot Dave Smith. Onward and upward!

3. I have enjoyed the students in CAS immensely, as well as my old friends in the School of Theology and Ministry (STM). Of course I only enjoy teaching if the students enjoy it too, so I have enjoyed teaching when the students have seemed to enjoy class, and there have been a few days reflecting on what to do differently next time. Jim Lo and I both agree that it has felt a bit like making all new preps, even though I have taught most of these courses before.

For one, back in the day I was still procrastinating moving my overheads to PowerPoints, so I had to migrate and edit almost all my old materials. More, I taught several courses in special formats. So my New Testament Survey was not just a NT Survey; it was a "First Year Experience" (FYE) NT Survey. That meant that there was another layer of "high touch" elements.

And my Romans and Galatians class was not just a Romans and Galatians class, but a class that had both graduate and undergraduate students in it. That also required some extra attention. My Greek students had Lara Levicheva last year and were sharp as a tack. She was a tough act to follow!

I taught two sections of the basic Foundations course for the Honors College because of that deserter, Steve Lennox. That was a challenge, to synthesize OT and NT Survey, Inductive Bible study, and some basic hermeneutics.

But there has been much laughter. The students have laughed and I have laughed with them. A college that laughs together is a healthy, hopeful place. There are few things I enjoy more than sharp young minds bursting with ideas, seeing new universes for the first time!

4. The students are a little different than before, and I am too. So my age now aligns more with their parents than before. The students seem to be a little higher on average academically than when I first came to teach at IWU. There are also higher expectations of professor service than before. I will refrain from making generic comments about millennials. :-)

So being a professor now, across the university, is a lot more work than it used to be. Gone are the days where a course has one paper or one test and that's it, or where a mysterious grade appears at the end of the semester on the basis of who knows what. But that's a good thing.

5. So on to next semester! Teaching some great classes, not least Biblical Theology on a graduate level. I think I had the best Romans class ever this last semester, so I'm hoping that Hebrews in the spring will follow suit.

I will say that it's hard not to want to jump in and get things moving when you see things that could be done somewhere. It reminds me of Fast and Furious 7--it's hard to drive kids to school when you're used to driving cars out of planes.

But nothing is on fire and there's no question that I have had an unusually peaceful, easy feeling all semester. I will be perfectly happy to teach till the day I retire, and then some. As so many of us professor types say repeatedly, "I can't believe they pay me to do this!"

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