Faculty Feature: Teaching is the Finest Contribution I Can Make to Society
I meet with faculty and students quite a bit, and I like to share their stories. This is an occasional series.
If you think pulling all-nighters during finals week is something only college students do, think again. John Sullivan, who has been teaching at Front Range Community College since 1988, pulls an all-nighter or two every semester.
Yes, more than a dozen years beyond earning his Ph.D. from the National University of Ireland, John is up all night grading papers and preparing for class. That’s commitment to the job, and, some would say, being in solidarity with his students. He is working while they are studying.
Teaching contributes to society.
“I do what I think is the most important job I am capable of doing,” he says. “I teach at a community college because I think, for what my skills are or aren’t, it is the finest contribution I can make to society.”
Ivy League to National University of Ireland.
John is the son of teachers. In fact, his father, Frank, is retired from the biology faculty at Front Range.
In the classroom, not the conference room.
He had his chance to teach at a four-year university.
“I ran when a position opened at Front Range,” he said. He wanted to teach, not publish research or jump through tenure hoops. He wanted to be in the classroom, not the conference room.
“Teaching is a profoundly spiritual dedication,” he says. “While the rewards aren’t remunerative, the rewards answer something in very deep ways. This is holy work. I get to contribute to the growth and development of my society, my country, and my state.”
So it is in the classroom that John makes this contribution.
Students learn critical-thinking skills.
By written word and spoken word, students learn critical-thinking skills.
“I sort of force students to be prepared,” he says. “I assign a short essay on a subject. They read the essays aloud and then we discuss.”
This works particularly well in John’s Introduction to Shakespeare class. “Shakespeare presents deep issues that trouble people,” John says. In discussions, students “learn to think for themselves. Students never react neutrally.”
Even after an all-nighter.