With my sabbatical finished in the fall, I am looking forward to teaching next week. Admittedly I was a little concerned that I may lose interest in teaching while on sabbatical; but, thankfully, this did not transpire. Having said that, I do think the sabbatical was well-deserved, as I felt myself not making teaching a priority in the last academic year due to the fatigue of teaching for ten consecutive years.
For the next fifteen weeks I plan to write once a week about my experience of returning to the classroom in teaching PS 118 (Introduction to Politics). I have designed the course as follows: In the first week we review the syllabus and conduct assessment required by the university; weeks two to five we focus on liberalism (Mill, Tocqueville, Smith); and weeks six and seven we look at classical and contemporary political theory (Aristotle and Rawls respectively). From weeks eight to twelve, we examine social contract theory (Locke, Rousseau); and in the final weeks we focus on political ideology (Arendt, Lenin, and Weber). The textbook assigned is a reader of the history of political thought.
I should finally mention something about the type of institution and the character of the students whom I teach. SVSU (Saginaw Valley State University) is a regional, comprehensive, public institution in rural Michigan (two hours north of Detroit). Its focus is primary undergraduate teaching with a few Master’s programs for nontraditional students in the region. Most of the students who enroll at SVSU are white, first-generation college, and work substantially during the school year while receiving financial aid. Quite frankly, most of the students here see education in utilitarian terms and are mediocre in ability and drive. Occasionally you come across one who is exceptionally bright and able, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
So we’ll see how this semester goes. Every semester is different than the previous one, so hopefully it will be productive and enjoyable to both me and the students. Only time will tell.