Myodicy, Issue 10, August 1999

End-of-Term Report:
Winter Term 1998-99

by Theodore Plantinga

This past term I taught upper-level courses in Aesthetics and Asian Philosophy, and also two sections of Introduction to Philosophy. It turned out to be the most unusual and difficult semester of my entire teaching career -- but for reasons that have nothing to do with Redeemer College. The problem I encountered had to do with the health of my wife Mary, who spent most of the term in the nearby McMaster University Hospital. She almost died, and spent three and a half weeks in the Intensive Care Unit. where she was slowly weaned from life support.

I spent a lot of time at the hospital and had a great many meetings and consultations with doctors. Somehow I also found time to teach my classes each and every day. How I got through the term is not clear to me in retrospect, but I do know that there was a tremendous cost in terms of cumulative exhaustion. Emotional upheaval is very tiring. One consequence is that Myodicy is coming out late; there will be one fewer issue this year.

Because of the drain on my time, I did not introduce much by way of innovation into the Aesthetics and Introduction to Philosophy courses; instead I relied largely on what worked during previous terms. In the case of Asian Philosophy, there are two innovations worth noting. One was the introduction of certain new topics on subjects that had been dealt with in passing during previous runnings of the course, such as the doctrine of reincarnation and the approaches to medicine and healing found in China and India. The other was asking students to do small presentations on aspects of Asian culture which shed light on Asian philosophy or which open certain presuppositions of Asian thought to Western scrutiny. The presentations proved popular with the students and provided some lighter moments during the term.

On the use of technology in the classroom I had a fair amount to say in my previous end-of-term report (December 1998). Since that time I have made some decisions about my use of technology during the next academic year. In general, I plan to make less use of the in-class projection possibilities. (For a description of the technology available at Redeemer, see my December 1998 end-of-term report.) My reasons are three.

First of all, using the technology heavily takes a fair amount of mental acuity and concentration, which in turn drains mental energy that could otherwise be used for interacting with students. When I first set out to use such technology, the sheer challenge of doing it tended to sweep me along: I was determined to do it smoothly. But when I taught under great strain much of this past term, I began to see that when less-than-optimum conditions for teaching obtain, the heavy use of technology is hard to handle smoothly.

On other college affairs I will make no comment in this report, mainly because I was not sufficiently attentive to them to have formed an opinion worth passing on. I did participate in discussions about the projected larger enrolment for the fall term. While the anticipated growth would be a blessing for the college in many ways, it would also pose some challenges. Naturally, the students were involved in the discussions. Some wondered whether the college would change in basic respects. There were also a few who wondered aloud what might be the optimum size for a school of the sort which Redeemer would like to be. [END]

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