The Teaching Vacation

Ideas more or less related to teaching and learning physics at Luther College.

I am not teaching a course this semester, spending my time focusing on my role as associate dean, although I am meeting with research students and the often grueling stellar data acquisition project is active for the season once again. Frequently people ask me if I like my dean’s office job or I miss teaching. The answer is always yes. I have been blessed with having enjoyed every job I’ve ever had and every place I’ve ever lived. I still recall fondly my $2.85 per hour job selling tickets, tearing tickets and cleaning and stocking at the cinema when I was in high school. So it is I could see myself teaching full-time for the rest of my working days or doing administrative work full time or doing something completely different. Of course, none of that is to say that some days aren’t better than others and that some things don’t quite go as planned but every day I am happy to go to work.

Being an associate dean, I get to work with faculty on all kinds of projects, helping them find the resources to do what they want to do. I get to think about learning goals and how we make progress toward them. I work with the new faculty as they transition to Luther. I work with faculty as they provide development opportunities for their colleagues. In short, I am able to think about the institution more broadly than I have at any time as a full-time faculty member and it has been a genuinely rewarding three years.

As currently configured my position has no teaching in it but I teach as much as I am able because in some ways it is like the fishing vacation I have taken with my parents each June since I was born – i.e., for a very long time. Both the teaching and the fishing are enriching and tiring. When we fish we arise at 4:00 every day and fish hard, squeezing in as much time on a lake as we can in that one week per year. It is as invigorating and life-giving as it is exhausting. So it is with the courses I manage to teach as an overload. The extra time of prepping, grading and meeting with students can be tiring but, as I tell everyone who will listen – well OK I tell them even if they don’t listen, teaching is like the fishing vacation in the other important way as well. When I am out and about wandering the splendid countryside here in Northeast Iowa my brain usually does not quite fully detach from work. A little tiny piece of it is typically churning, however remotely, on something. The only time that I can reliably be lost in the moment so that absolutely nothing else exists is when I walk through the door to the classroom. For that brief time nothing exists but the students, me and whatever question about the universe we are struggling with together that day. It is as fine a vacation as one can hope for.

{ Return to Physics Faculty Blog for more posts. }

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