Wednesday, September 07, 2005

First Day of Teaching!

As the chalk dust settled at 12:35 yesterday afternoon, I inclined my head and strained my ears: there was no weeping or gnashing of teeth. In fact, it seemed that everything went pretty well. No one got hurt and, it seems to me, the students felt much more comfortable upon leaving the class than they felt when they entered.

I remember *hating* math when I was in grade school and even for the first two years of high school. Luckily, as I said in an earlier post, I had a teacher who taught me how to learn (in all subjects) by encouraging a disciplined and organized approach to studies. So I'm not shocked at all to hear the students' horror stories about crazy math teachers and reasons they are afraid of numbers. With any luck, I'll be able to do for them what one great teacher did for me.

Today I change roles (and clothes!!) and assume the posture of the student rather than the teacher. I'm taking a course in "Health Care Ethics" this semester and, as it's a field I'm not terribly familiar with, I'm excited to explore new material. One of my interests academically and pastorally is the area of death and dying and, given the current attention focused on Terri Shiavo, it'll be of great interest and importance to explore the issues surrounding such sensitive topics.

Besides, it gives me yet another chance to argue about something.

Oh! Not that it is particularly funny, but I would like to share this anecdote from yesterday:

I woke up and put my clerics (shirt, black pants, sensible black shoes, etc.) and, since it was cold, wanted something more to put on. Well, I'm not much for black although, as luck would have it, two weeks ago I liberated two black cardigans from Colombiere (the Jesuit retirement home in Clarkston, MI). They're pretty snazzy and, to my mind, were most appropriate as they belonged to the now deceased Mal Carron who had been president of (then) the University of Detroit during the Detroit race riots. Well, you know the saying: Something old (Mal's cardigan) and something new (my new clerical shirt that my mom bought me).

So, as an ice-breaker, I asked the students to introduce themselves and then to tell us something interesting and unique that pertained to them. I went first and, after introducing myself, I thought it'd be funny to tell them about the sweater I was wearing. Big mistake! I think they will now learn mathematics more out of fear of me than of love for math as they were HORRIFIED by the idea that I would wear, as one student put it, "some dead dude's clothes." This reaction was not so different from my parents' reaction Christmas morning when my mother commented that "Oh, Ryan, you look cute. Where'd you get that nice red vest?" Imagine her shock when I told her I had gotten it from the common line and that it had been "donated" to the common closet of clothes by a recently deceased Jesuit priest. Needless to say, we were at the GAP the next evening!!

I thought this exchange with the students to be rather funny. I really liked Mal and it actually gave me a sense of support and assurance that I was brining something of his back to UDM on my first day of teaching. Besides, it's a perfectly good sweater and as my mentor Fr Fiore used to say, it's just good sense not to let such nice clothes go to waste. Furthermore, as I far as I can tell, taking a vow of poverty does not mean that I've taken a vow of poor taste and, to be sure, Mal had pretty good taste in clothes!

Yep, so that's my wierd and bizzare story for the day. I'm now off to the YMCA to lift weights (and put them down again).
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