Why are you reading this? Don't you have anything better to do with your time?!! Don't you have HOMEWORK to do?!?!

I often ask students to tell me about themselves on a little index card, and while some are quite candid and informative, most limit themselves to the ol' "name-rank-and-serial number" routine. That too is informative; while most people consider themselves unique individuals, when asked to briefly describe themselves they too often resort to the mundane labels they might otherwise disdain ("I'm only a student," or "I'm a ______ Major, "or "I'm just a housewife," etc.,). I know they are not "only" or not "just" anything -- there are lives behind those labels. Well, the shoe is now on the other foot, I suppose, and now I should provide some glimpses of a life that you can't get from reading a resume -- or I'm "just another teacher".

If you looked at the resume, the most distinguishing feature of my education is also my bane; I earned what some have called "the elusive" Licentiate Degree during a 2-and-a-half year stay at the University of Leuven (a.k.a. Louvain) in Belgium (English Program). The License is more than a Masters and once was considered a terminal degree. The experience of living and traveling abroad was a tremendous one for both my wife and I.  Oh, yeah, we got married by a Justice of the Peace ten days before we left for Europe, had our first-born at the hospital where she worked in Brussels, and passed our twentieth anniversary not long ago.

Completing the degree "with distinction" allowed me to enroll in the PhD. Program at Leuven. While I completed the residency requirement and later returned to the U.S. to write the dissertation, it is the PhD. that remained elusive. Many hours, many pages, many years and a few revisions have not yielded a satisfactory monograph.

I've told my students that of all the things I've done for money, teaching is the thing I've enjoyed the most. If that gets them wondering about what else part-time professors do for cash, good! I come from a solid suburban middle class background and know well the meaning and value of hard work. At one time or another in my life I have worked every shift, I've done retail, construction, machine-shop, janitorial and maintenance, delivery, food prep. and cafeteria work. Only the teaching, advising, curriculum development and consulting jobs are on the resume, of course. Teaching is not something I was born to do, and I really have had to work at it, but the rewards have been great. It has allowed me to meet some wonderful people, provided a great variety of opportunities, and most of all allowed me to continue to learn. I teach because I enjoy being a student. These days many students, young and not-so-young, see their student status as a burden, as something to put behind them. I think they're missing something. Or at least they are not getting their money's worth out of their education...!

Our daughter is in college, and I hope she's getting our (and her) money's worth. Our middle child is in high school, he being the "academically talented" underachiever. (Heaven forbid -- that sounds like another philosopher in the making!) Then there's the grade school gymnastic wonder-boy. Most Summers I spend my time as their chauffeur. Oh, of course there's Max, the dog. No cats, thank you -- allergies you understand...

I put a lot of miles on my car in a short period of time. It's not unusual to teach at two, three or even four locations in a semester. Sometimes just getting to class on time is a feat. See? I'm no different than my students ; - )

1 You never know how a liberal arts education will pay-off. There are good reasons for all those "irrelevant" required courses like language, sociology and anthropology, history, and of course philosophy. They both equip and inspire a student to go places and experience things they thought were reserved for the rich and elite. They can change you, if you let them.

 

Roofing and Siding paid for a good bit of my education and made possible that first year in Belgium. I've also done some carpentry, spent a summer as a mason's laborer, and know enough about a few other things that made myself useful in helping my younger brother build his house.

Teaching part-time is rewarding, but it is not lucrative. I've had to do many of those other jobs, while teaching, to produce income or benefits that would allow me continue to teach. I certainly could not have a career in philosophy without the unwavering material support from my wife, a maternity nurse and lactation consultant.

One of my most formative experiences was owning and caring for a horse at a time when most other kids were buying their first car. Some of the most important people in my life have not been human.