The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Column: Benefits of teaching and learning

I have tentatively agreed to write this column from time to time to try and give you a window into what I do or how the College is doing.

I would like to start off saying that though I like being an administrator—most of the time—I actually like preparing to teach and teaching even more. Why? First, in preparing, a committed teacher has to learn and re-learn and finally learn in new ways the materials and ideas that he or she has reviewed before. This process, if properly engaged in, produces new learning for the instructor and excitement and intellectual pleasure.

Second, I, for one, learn additional things in the act of teaching from each of you. The dialectic of preparing, teaching, and then thinking about a class or a topic afterwards advances significantly one’s understanding of the materials and ideas.

I also like the discipline and intellectual ferment of writing an article, book, book review, or comment for publication. One has to, in the creating and editing process, study some kinds of original materials, consider what others have said about them, and then synthesize something hopefully thoughtful and worthy on the topic selected.

I have been working on a project for about 18 months on the formal development of the norm of judicial independence in 18th century Britain and the North American colonies. Others have suggested that this development can be traced to political disputes. My project suggests that this development actually reflected a societal desire for independence which various political factions tuned into to create the norm. It is a big project and I believe that it will take me one or two years of full-time research and writing—after I retire—to complete.

It seems to me that enjoying teaching and being a scholar are important—perhaps critical—perspectives for a college president or dean. The joys and stresses of faculty and the wonder and challenges of helping students (and ourselves) learn are best understood by a person who has experienced them.
A college administrator needs other skills as well but it seems to me that an appreciation of and commitment to teaching and scholarship are critical.

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