Thursday, 18 December 2014


No-one who knew me during my first year at university, or to be completely honest at any point in the five-to-eight years before that, would be surprised to hear that I enjoy lecturing. During that time, I lectured indiscriminately and at length to anyone who paused to listen or gave me a reason to open my mouth.

The years (yes, all eight of them) have humbled me somewhat. When my head of department asked me back in August if I'd be willing to do some lecturing this term to fill a gap left by a departing staff member, I was paralysed with something quite a lot like fear. On the one hand, I knew it would mean more money, money I do still need to be quite careful about. On the other, it meant standing up in front of dozens of undergrads - any one of them potentially as uppity as I was at their age - and desperately pretending to be an expert.

I did not feel qualified to be an expert.

I also didn't feel that public speaking could be a strong point of mine. Historically, I've done a much better job expressing myself in writing than verbally (which, long-time followers of this blog will realise, implies some truly horrific moments of verbal misexpression). I'm not good at improvising and I know from long, painful experience that an over-planned lecture, particularly one with a tight, complete script, is a miserable waste of student time.

But in the end I took the job. I arranged my share of the lecturing so I wouldn't have to be the first member of the team to go in front of the students, did my best to prepare, and fretted until it was my turn. I felt certain that I'd panic, or stumble over my tongue and say something completely false, or that I'd do that thing nervous speakers do where they steadily speed up and up and up and turn everything into horrible run-on sentences that go on and on and on forever until you're really desperate for the end of this paragraph right now aren't you?

Suffice it to say, none of that actually happened. My lectures weren't perfect - I flubbed jokes, ran too long in some sessions and too short in others - but I've not seen a catastrophic drop-off in attendance and no-one's made a formal complaint against me, so at the very least there have been no disasters. And it's actually been quite fun. Well, not preparing Powerpoint presentations for each session, that sucks, but the rest of it.

Probably some of this is unhealthy - the gratification from playing the expert for an hour or two a week (sidebar: turns out that compared to people with a decade's less experience of philosophy, I am an expert and don't need to do much pretending) - but unless and until someone complains I'm not going to overanalyse. For the most part, I'm just pleased that I've now been asked to do more lecturing next term - though this does mean I'm going to be just as busy and thus have just as little time for blogging, which is why new content here has been a bit sluggish in recent weeks.

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