Meilin’s Job Talk: Teaching
To teach is to learn twice.
Take lots of time to prepare for class; detailed lectures; intellectual responsibility (you should know this or that about Kant).
– But don’t overwhelm the students. They don’t need to know everything (you don’t necessarily need to be a Kant scholar to start understanding Hegel)
You might not even notice that you’re using jargon; be careful of that. Slow down your approach; learn to intuitively feel the class.
A less formal approach may be beneficial. Improv isn’t a bad thing!!! More conversational, less information driven may be beneficial.
Don’t expect them to grasp it at the level you do. They won’t. Most won’t continue philosophy and most are having their first experience of it.
Model doing philosophy for them. Let them see that you yourself are working things out. It’s ok to show that you’re uncertain, that philosophy is confusing.
Good confusion and bad confusion. Latter is you don’t know what’s happing at all, the other is aporetic. The aporetic confusion is the aesthetic form of philosophy – it’s the tension that we feel when we’re approaching the punch line. Get confused on purpose sometimes!
Reticence and apathy is difficult to handle and can be off-putting to other students. You might not be able to have an engaging, community driven relationship with all the students; it’s tempting to ignore the reticent and apathetic students for the sake of building and sustaining good relationships with more engaged students. That may not be the best move, but it’s likely to happen that way.
We’re journeying together (especially if you’re teaching a topic that’s not particularly in your area of expertise). Make sure your students know that.
Your students might lead you to think about texts and your readings of them differently. There’s no one way to read a text. This is part of the good of good confusion.
Take into consideration who your students are. Generally testing may not be the best way to evaluate their aptitude; but if you’re teaching at a place like Tokai, consider that they don’t speak English well, that they’re used to being tested.
Your persona as a teacher may change from class to class. In some classes, being more informal, more playful might work better than in other classes.
Sometimes conversation driven classes might mask that they don’t understand the topic at hand. Dilemma between P and p. It’s not always a bad thing to do most of the talking (deliver them the P) – sometimes students won’t be capable of handling conversation. But sometimes it might be important to sort of force people to talk.
Good relationships with students can make for a good classroom experience, even if you haven’t necessarily mastered the craft of teaching.
Historical approach versus figures approach versus topic approach: each has its merits. Textbook might be good if you want to mix up these approaches.
Consider the reading skills of your students. It’s rough for an 18 year old fresh out of public school (especially if it wasn’t the best public school) to deal with Plato or Kant.
Be careful of overpreparing! You still need to spend time doing other things, like your dissertation.