This question sparked a good discussion on one of my students’ blogs.
I’m not sure I’m striking the right tone in my comments over there. Typically when I comment on a student’s blog, I try to pose open-ended questions that are designed to keep the conversation going, rather than designed to convey my own specific personal opinion. But in this particular instance, I’m conscious that I can’t just give general philosophical answers, since the question is coming up in the context of my own specific classroom, and naturally the students are curious about what I think.
I am of course interested in my students’ welfare, and I want to appear accessible and helpful. The sisters and administrators at Seton Hill regularly speak of service and love, not in a general sense of “I love teaching!” but a specific personal sense, drawn from the school’s roots as a Catholic institution.
Last year I had a student who worked on a family farm. When the nuclear holocaust lays our civilization to waste, this student and his family will survive while I scour the radioactive landscape searching for discarded cans of SPAM.
So I’m very conscious of the limitations of my training. I’d like to think that my training in English literature gives me a good insight into the human heart, and prepares me to be a good listener and storyteller. Yes, I’m older than most of my students, and so I’m probably a wiser about some things. Yet they see me mostly in a completely artificial situation, where it only looks like I am smart because the subject matter is so narrow.