My First Semester Teaching

In the fall of 1987 I taught my first college classes—two sections of ethics at a major midwestern university. I admit to being scared of speaking in front of 40 students who weren’t much younger than me. What would I talk about for an hour three times a week? What was I going to say for 16 weeks? Could I really do what so many professors I idealize seem to do with such ease?

Well, I found out quickly that I could talk for an hour easily:) In fact, I enjoyed it thourougly. It took time to become comfortable; not until my second year did it seem natural. Still, even after many years of teaching I still felt some jitters on the first day of a class. Yet, at the same time, I was thrilled knowing that I was the professor and this was my turf. I did my best to put everything I had into it, even if it was a topic that I had covered many times.

Yes some students were unpleasant, some uninterested, but some eager to learn—the kind teachers live for. In the end, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to engage with so many students—between 8,000 and 10,000 is a good estimate.

I recall many of them fondly to this day.

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5 thoughts on “My First Semester Teaching

  1. I’m sure you have been a great and inspirational teacher from the beginning of your career Doctor John, I wish I had had the opportunity to sit in your class and perhaps, have had the chance to know and discuss ideas with you in an informal setting.

    John Gray, in his 2002 book Straw Dogs says, or quotes?
    “If humans differ from other animals, it is partly in the conflicts of their instincts. They crave security, but are easily bored;they are peace loving animals, but they have an itch for violence; they are drawn to thinking, but at the same time they hate and fear the unsettlement that thinking brings.. There is no way of life in which all these needs can be satisfied. Luckily, as the history of philosophy testifies, humans have a gift for self-deception, and thrive in ignorance of their natures.”

    I don’t personally, think that Philosophers are afraid to think, from my perspective philosophy’s goal seems to be to teach people to find satisfaction in their circumstances, and to be glad they have a chance to experience life and contemplate the reality they live in, as for his remarks about Self deception, well we do have that capacity, if we ‘unconsciously’ use it to shield us from unpleasant realities, well why not? this is simply the harmless white lies we tell ourselves?
    Thank you Doctor and Mrs. Messerly for your work and for providing this site!

  2. One of my scariest times was when my wife was in the Ethics class I taught for the first time. Double jeopardy!

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