Teacher appreciation

Both before and after I quit working, people suggested I consider teaching a university level class or two as a way to stay busy. It sounded okay but while I’ve spoken at numerous legal and other seminars and helped train young associates in our firm, I’d never taught what would be considered a class. As a result, I decided to offer to teach a class during the winter session of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

Not wanting to jump in too deep, I proposed a class called “Can I Trust this Website?”, based on the various elements I’ve used over the years when evaluating whether a website is trustworthy enough to be cited in an administrative, trial court or appellate brief. Additionally, I proposed just two class sessions of 90 minutes each with a class size of 25-30.

The second session was yesterday. About 45 people enrolled so attendance exceeded my proposal. Based on the classes, I think it went well. But what I learned is just how much work it is to be a teacher. The skills I addressed are things I learned over the years and did automatically. I don’t think I’m far off the mark in estimating that figuring out each of the steps, doing research and preparing course materials took me 80 hours. Now it wouldn’t be unusual for me to spend that much time preparing for an hour-long Supreme Court argument, of which I’d have no more than 30 minutes. But here I was just trying to relate steps that had become secondhand for me.

Granted, it I taught this course on a regular basis, my time ROI would improve as I’d nearly need to update and revise the material. But I learned just how much work and talent is involved in being a teacher. I think it’s something I’d taken for granted for years, often being among those joking that it would be nice to only have to work nine months a year and have Christmas vacation each year.

So to teachers at any level — and my friends who are or were teachers — I’m impressed by how talented you have to be.

UNSOLICITED PLUG: If you’ve never taken a course offered by OLLI. It offers fall, winter and spring sessions each year in Sioux Falls, Vermillion and Brookings and the vast majority of classes aren’t just repeats from the previous session. In Sioux Falls, it costs $70 to be a member for one term or $170 for a year. You can then take any and as many of the courses as you want (some have enrollment limits). The vast majority cost nothing more, although there are exceptions for those that might involve travel or tours. In literature classes, you can check out the book(s) from a library, buy new or used wherever you want or share them with a friend. Not a better bargain around for those with inquiring minds.

To teach is to learn twice.

Joseph Joubert, Pensées

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