I really like the beginning of the semester. The last week of Christmas break seemed to drag on forever because I was anxious to get started.
I liked the beginning of the school year when I was a child. Those times were associated with new clothes and new pencils and pencil boxes and getting to meet my new teacher. I still have a thing for pencils and pencil boxes, as well as fountain pens, but now the excitement of a new school term is harder to explain.
I like seeing new students. I had a good group last semester and it looks like I’ve got good students again this semester. But there is also something exciting about starting a new subject–or having the chance to explain an old subject, like the history of philosophy–again.
Yesterday I talked with the students in my overview of the history of modern philosophy about some of the medieval background to modern philosophy: Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham. I hope they learned something and enjoyed doing so, but I know that I had a great time, though it is hard to know just why I did. Is it that teaching has much in common with acting and I like performing? Was my pleasure like that of children, the enjoyment of repeating stories that we know well? There is something about starting a semester, when we all still have good intentions about what we will accomplish this time, that is exciting. After a month or so that initial bloom always fades, both for teacher and student, but the next semester I’m as eager to begin again as ever, even with courses I’ve taught year after year.
In other words, I feel sorry for those of you who have had to go on from school to careers. They have their pleasures, I’m sure, but I would hate to give up the pleasure of the new semester.