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January 27, 2012: Random Thoughts

Late this afternoon Pete walked Raudi and I walked Siggi. There were two moose standing at the far end of the road, so we went the other way, and continued down Murphy Road. It was quite cold – the temperature has been hovering around -10. The sun was low in the sky, the sky orange pink in color. The strong smell of spruce was in the air – I think that the plow and grader may have knocked down a few tree branches.

The walk was good for us all. This provided me with the opportunity to reflect upon the day, and I mainly focused on the afternoon’s teaching experience.

Alys and Raudi on bench
Alys, Raudi, and Jenna on bench

Today I taught the animal behavior class at nearby Mat-Su College (VETT 123). It was the second class of the semester. It’s been seven or eight years since I’ve taught a college-level class. I’ve never before taught an animal science course. I did take the horse behavior and training series, and I also took the large animal veterinary tech courses. It does amaze me that I’m now teaching a course that I previously took.

I seriously considered becoming a veterinarian, or maybe a veterinary technician, but came to realize that I am not all that interested in medicine or surgery. I’d previously had a strong interest in human cognition, so it is not surprising that I now have an interest in animal cognition. I also noticed that when I took the above mentioned courses, that I found myself thinking about how I’d teach the courses differently.

A good number of people, hearing that I’m teaching this course, have expressed surprise, usually prefacing their remarks with the question, “But don’t you teach English?” I merely say that I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of behavior. But there’s more to it than this. Way more. I am of the belief that good teachers who are passionate and know about the subject matter can teach just about anything.

John Dewey asserted that real learning involves making connections between differing areas of study. I have always believed this. In this respect, a wonderful opportunity has fallen from the sky, into my lap. This is that I get to combine my two seemingly differing areas of interest, writing and animal behavior.

Amazingly enough, the students were (today) not at all opposed to doing writing-related responses, or to doing a writing based mid-term and final. And when I was asked about standards in relation to writing, several students talked at length about the importance of writing in the veterinary profession, and how crucial it is that the writer use correct grammar and punctuation.

I was rather blown away by this. I have never, ever been in a class where students were so enthusiastic about learning. The reason why they (at least up until now) have been so receptive to my writing-related ideas is that animal behavior is providing them with a much-needed context.

You can have a context in composition courses, and some are gifted at figuring out what this context might be. And for this reason, I think that it’s good to have composition courses. It’s equally important to have writing intensive courses, where those who have training as writing teachers work alongside those in the arts and sciences. This is writing across the discipline.

I’m making a big connection here. If I hadn’t gotten back into horses, I probably would not have developed an interest in animal behavior. And if I hadn’t developed an interest in animal behavior, I probably would not be teaching this class. And if I hadn’t been teaching this class, I would not have come to this realization.

I do hope that my doing this opens doors for me in this area of specialization. I feel like I’m getting back into teaching via a side door. Nothing wrong with that.

Next: 53. 1/28/12: Yellow/Blue/Red Threads