June 30, 2015 [LINK / comment]
If it's Tuesday, this must be Bridgewater*
Gradually, I have been getting caught up with various tasks after what had to have been the busiest four months of my life. In early December I accepted an offer to teach two courses at Sweet Briar College** for the spring semester, the third time I had done so. (I had previously taught there during the 2007-2008 academic year, and in the fall of 2013.) I planned to continue teaching at Central Virginia Community College, but with perhaps two sections rather than three.
But then just before Christmas, I became aware of an opening at Bridgewater College for the spring semester. Since the subject was right up my alley (Latin American Politics), I leaped at the opportunity, and was soon hired. That obviously conflicted with my schedule at CVCC, and I let them know that I would not be available to teach courses there, unless the 8:00 AM section (in the Amherst off-campus center) was shifted from Tuesday-Thursday to Monday-Wednesday, in which case I might teach just that one section. I was hoping that they could find someone else to teach that section, but that was not the case, so agreed to teach at CVCC again, along with Sweet Briar and Bridgewater.
I knew what I was getting into, and I committed myself 110 percent to doing the very best I could, leaving my other pursuits (baseball, birds, and politics) largely by the wayside. It required a huge amount of preparation work, and I was often up until 2:00 AM or later preparing PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentations for the next day's classes. But it was also the difficulty of maintaining an appropriate state of mind while I shifted from one institution to the other. Believe me, it gets confusing keeping track of which class and which college I'm at on any given day of the week!
* Hence the title above, which is an allusion to a humorous travel-themed movie from 1968, If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. (See imdb.com.)
But all kidding aside, I had a great experience teaching at Bridgewater for the first time. It is a liberal arts college affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, which upholds traditional Christian values of a simple lifestyle and peace. There are about 1,800 students enrolled full time.(bridgewater.edu) That's over twice as big as Sweet Briar College, but it's still small enough for administrators, staff people, and faculty members to get along on a friendly basis. Everyone I met there was extremely helpful. As for the students in my class, I was very impressed by their overall quality, and the serious attitude toward learning shown by many of them.
Perhaps inevitably, there were one or two times when my frantic schedule got the best of me, and I would be the first to admit that I often just could not be at my best. Fortunately, the students were understanding, by and large, and I think they got a lot out of the class. I showed a five-minute video of the trip to Peru that Jacqueline and I took in 2004, but it was mostly about wild birds there. (Unfortunately, the longer video I produced is on a video CD, a format that is not compatible with most computers or DVD players.) From my perspective, being able to refresh my lecturing in Latin American Politics was extremely helpful. As part of my preparations for class, I updated a number of my Latin American Web pages with names of presidents and political parties, but most of the individual country Web pages are still woefully outdated. Next time I teach that subject, I'll have the information on those pages much more current.
My biggest regret was not finding the time to attend a Bridgewater College baseball game. I went over to the field a couple times, one of which was before a game that was rained out. Many more photos of Sweet Briar and Bridgewater can be seen on the Spring 2015 photo gallery page.
** NOTE: I will have more to say about the stunning announcement of the closure of Sweet Briar College, and its recent tentative re-opening, in a separate blog post soon.