Extracurricular teaching

January 29, 2011

Cliff Williams
Department of Philosophy
Trinity College
Deerfield, IL 60015

I was lying on the physical therapist’s table getting my feet worked on several days ago. “You are 67 and you are still teaching?” the therapist asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Last Sunday evening, several students and I got together and read Anne of Green Gables to each other. You can’t do that very many other places.”

It was just me, Sara, and Jaime. We met in the lower dining hall on campus, then found a quiet place at the end of a narrow hallway. I sat on the floor on one side, Jaime sat on the other side, and Sara in between. Jaime had never read Anne of Green Gables before, nor seen the movie, so she started us off. Sara and I exchanged knowing smiles when we anticipated some event that Jaime was soon to hear about.

“Why do you do that?” the therapist wondered.

“Just because,” I answered. Then, because she had a puzzled look on her face, I added, “It’s extracurricular teaching.”

“Oh,” she said with a knowing nod.

But it wasn’t teaching at all. It was just reading together and giggling at Anne’s adventures and anticipating what would happen next, plus delighting at Anne’s awe upon discovering the Lake of Shining Waters.

I did not have any motive beyond experiencing these. Nor did I conceive the event to be a teaching moment. It was just there, in the hallway, on the floor.

Of course, Sara and Jaime will remember it. They will remember my voice and twinkling eyes as I read my page. I will remember their voices and childlike glee as they read their pages. And remembering splendid events, I have discovered, is almost as good as undergoing them.

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