Class Notes

Agelessness in Academia

By Paula Marantz Cohen | October 16, 2012


Teaching makes you feel young—or at least ageless. Each new academic year brings rebirth, a chance for a new beginning. However old you are, that sense of starting over rejuvenates and energizes.

My colleagues and I are united in this sense of renewal. It’s true that having been at this institution for 30 years, I know things the young assistant professor down the hall doesn’t—like why A hates B, even though A and B have forgotten why they hate each other; or why C was hired; or that D was once slim. I know that the latest new initiative was tried once before, 25 years ago.

I am also less likely than my greener colleague to believe a student’s promise to never miss another class after missing three or four, or to be convinced that this year we will finally remedy the problems in student writing that the rest of the university is always complaining about. I am less enamored of new technology and online learning than my younger peers—whether due to my greater perspective or my mild technical illiteracy.

And yet when I go out for drinks with my colleagues, differences disappear. We are excited that the year has begun—another chance for a do-over. And we are alike in having all chosen a life of teaching and ideas. That’s what binds us together and obscures the differences in our ages. At least I think that after a few glasses of wine.

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