While finals week is probably not the best time to think about the rewards of teaching, I would be remiss to leave my end-of-the-semester discussion with only a look at the challenges of cheating and other such academic ills.
While teaching philosophy has its challenges, it also has its rewards. One reward is knowing that I have made a small contribution to my students’ education. While it might be a mere 3 credit hours out of 120, at least I have helped them on the way towards graduation and, hopefully, to a life better than it would have been without a college education.
A second reward is seeing a student’s ability in critical thinking and reasoning skills improve over the course of the semester. Students have told me how, for example, they recognized real life examples of fallacies they learned in class. As another example, students have told me that the skills they learned in class helped them on the standardized tests that attempted to stand between them and their dreams of professional school.
A third reward is seeing a student develop a philosophical outlook. This involves being critical of their own beliefs and those of others, while avoiding the trap of prejudice and bickering for the sake of bickering.
A fourth reward is hearing from students after they have graduated and learning that my class or classes were useful or valuable in their chosen life path, be it law school, graduate school or some other option. Past students have gone on the become lawyers, doctors, engineers and some even became professors. It is very rewarding to learn that I had some small role.
A fifth reward is the process of teaching itself-interacting with students and learning from them. While I do not buy into the idea that diversity is intrinsically valuable, I have found that each student can bring their own unique perspective to philosophy. When students participate in class or stop by during my office hours to discuss philosophy, I often gain a new perspective or new idea. While it might be a bit hackneyed, it is true that to be a good teacher one must never stop learning from others.