When I was young, I climbed the tree out back and sat near the top daydreaming and thinking about things. On trips with my family, I sat in the back seat wondering what speed limit laws were—words on a book in some courthouse or some ethereal entity?
Then in college I took a philosophy course my freshman year. I liked it and took more. In graduate school, I filled pages with random thoughts about the books I was reading. The papers I wrote were highly abstract.
In my first few years of college teaching, I told students things. Then I thought, How can they learn to think and create for themselves if I just tell them things? I quit that, cold turkey. I started asking them questions. To get a good discussion going, I discovered that I had to get those questions just right.
The thoughts I had in the tree and in graduate school did not stop. They spilled out into articles and books. (You can see them listed here.)
Fifteen or twenty years after I started teaching, I fell in love with the teaching life. I could be alone with my thoughts. I could talk to students in class and out, listening to their thoughts and dreams and hopes. I could stay in touch with them after they graduated, go to their weddings, and play with their little ones.
In 2018, I finished fifty years of college teaching—fourteen years at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, thirty-one years at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois, and five years at Wheaton College in Illinois.
When I was teaching, I found myself falling in love with teaching all over again at the beginning of every semester, sometimes oftener. That felt good. At some point, I dreaded ending, thinking that my life would fall apart when I did. I am happy to report that it has not.