Teachers become the students
This fall, some students may notice that their fellow classmates are looking a bit older ... and sort of familiar ... like maybe they should be in front of the class instead of in it.
Matt Yan / Chips
Because Luther allows all professors to audit courses for free, several members of the faculty are taking classes for personal enjoyment. Associate Professor of English Amy Weldon is on a sabbatical this year and decided to take wheel-thrown pottery.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do for years and I’ve just never had the chance,” Weldon said. “I believe really strongly that a good artist is someone who has a connection to the physical world and can do things and make things with her hands. Pottery is a way for me to explore art in the sense of making things and crafting things well.”
Because Weldon is taking a break from teaching, she has enough free time to pursue her own projects in the class. By her estimate, she has made at least 50 pieces and gone through 150 pounds of clay. Weldon feels that the course challenges her to push through frustration.
“It’s challenging because I’ve got tenure and a Ph.D. and it’s easy for me to think I’m supposed to be good at everything the first time,” Weldon said. “With pottery you learn that you just have to keep trying. There is no substitute for trying and putting in a lot of effort over time. No matter how good you think you are at something, you’ve always got more to learn.”
Evgenia Fotiou of the Anthropology Department has had a similar experience in her drawing class.
Despite having an advanced degree in her field, Fotiou feels that her class is one of the most difficult she has come across.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Fotiou said. “Some days the professor asks us to do impossible things. I feel it’s helping me to think creatively about my own teaching. It’s also fun because we can laugh with each other as failures because most of us are not very good anyway.”
Visiting Assistant Profesor of English Alison Mandaville, who teaches Paideia I and Rhetoric, is taking Russian this semester. She enjoys the idea of not having to take control of the class for once.
“I don’t think students realize how nice it is to have someone else preparing information for you to learn,” Mandaville said. “I don’t have responsibility for how class goes. I can just sit back and it’s like going on a Disneyland ride.”
Weldon echoed her sentiments and said that it was a learning experience in itself to go from being a professor to a student.
“It’s a very good spiritual and intellectual practice to be a learner instead of to always be a teacher,” Weldon said. “It humbles you and makes you aware that you’ve still got a lot of things to learn yourself.”
For Mandaville and Fotiou, their already-heavy workload makes it hard for them to always get homework done on time. Luckily for them, however, they don’t need to worry about grades. When asked if her professor treated her any differently from other students, Mandaville laughed.
“I get happy faces on my work instead of grades,” Mandaville said.