August 28, 2006

Teaching! (feat. interspersed random quotations)

I taught my first two philosophy discussion sections on Friday. It was quite an experience!

You need to understand the format of the course to fully appreciate how intimidating this was for me, going into the classroom. The class of ~90 students has two hours of lecture each week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Every Thursday night, the students email me (or whatever TA they have) 2-3 questions about the text (that's about 50 questions total). My job is not to answer these, but to pick out the best 3 or 4, and then, in discussion on Friday, facilitate a discussion of the questions amongst the students. No lecturing. Whatever questions they have at the end of discussion get forwarded on to the professor, who spends Monday and Wednesday answering them. The idea is to help the students in their own individual struggles with the texts, not force-feed them Textbook Plato, Textbook Descartes, etc.

Feminism ain't about equality / It's about reprieve

This also means almost all of the weight of the course is on the shoulders of the TA, ie, me. I'm the one who has to work with them one-on-one (well, one-on-sixteen, but that's still much more personal than one-on-ninety) and shape their questions into the content of the class sessions. And me? I teach math, and write papers about Kant. I don't want the responsibility of trying to goat-herd teenagers to Truth. What am I supposed to do if they come up with something completely crazy?

From a pro-feminist standpoint, there are few greater enemies of social progress than marital "labor specialization." Relationships built on mutual dependency and need (wife needs financial support, husband needs dinner cooked and baby's diaper changed) do little to challenge either party in the relationship to develop their full human potential. The feminist ideal is one in which marriage becomes a supportive framework in which both men and women can become competent in a wide variety of arenas both in and out of the home. A rigid belief in "labor specialization" robs both sexes of the chance to complete their own journey of transformation into the best people they can possibly become.

(No, I do not mean to imply that Hugo's point is in any way crazy.)

So on Friday afternoon I walked into a room full of anxious eighteen-year-olds, armed with nothing more than a cup of tea and a selection of their own concerns and confusions. And they honestly blew me away with their insight and facility with the text, and their sheer eagerness to contribute to the discussion. The pace of discussion was a bit slower in the second of my two sections, but never did I feel the least bit frustrated or as though my students were truly lost.

I'm really excited about the rest of the term. And the next forty years of teaching philosophy. Hooray!

(Today's homework assignment: Read Twisty, then this drivel (including the comments!), and then Twisty again.)

Also, French is a bastard language with the most ridiculous rules for pronunciation possible. In what sane world would `aout' and `qui est-ce' be pronounced `oo' and `kee-eh'?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the pronunciation may be a bit much to learn, but the grammar is rather straight forward.