I've spent a good deal of my professional life teaching - a total of about nine years - and in many different kinds of teaching. For five years I was a teaching assistant running discussion sections in large introductory courses at Cornell and at Harvard, where the titles of the courses I taught suggest the large range of topics covered:
- Introduction to Sociology
- Issues in Buddhist Philosophy
- World Religions: Diversity and Dialogue
- Indian Religions through their Narrative Literatures
- Sources of Indian Civilization
- Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies
- "If There Is No God, All Is Permitted": Theism and Moral Reasoning
I also had the wonderful opportunity to develop junior tutorials - classes of 1-3 concentrators - on topics tailored to their interest. In that context I created two courses, one on sexuality in Indian traditions and another on the good life in cross-cultural perspective, that I would develop further to teach again as a professor.
My first faculty teaching job was a year as a visiting assistant professor at Colorado College, an élite small liberal-arts college. There, I taught six sections on the demanding block plan, including introductions to Hindu tradition and Islam, and a course on Hindu-Muslim relations in South Asia.
I then moved for two years to the small Catholic Stonehill College. There, I sometimes re-taught my courses on Hindu tradition and on the good life, but my bread and butter was the introductory religion course required of all Stonehill students. The wonderful thing about teaching this course was the extraordinary flexibility allowed faculty: we were required to teach the Book of Exodus, but other than that we could teach anything we wanted. I jumped on the opportunity to learn more myself by teaching different material in different ways, sometimes teaching the course as a general introduction to everything from Judaism to Daoism, and sometimes restricting its scope to Western monotheism.
After Stonehill I continued to teach - now moving to teaching mathematics and English at levels from junior high school to first-year undergraduates, with The Academic Approach. Much of it was tutoring students privately in their homes, but I also taught several sections of a formal class at Phillips Exeter Academy. I came to wish I'd had this experience before teaching undergraduates - it would have been very helpful to have had this background in order to know what preparation American undergraduates were likely to have in their first year.
Nowadays, I'm teaching faculty about how to use technology effectively - which can often include some teaching about teaching. I wouldn't be able to do this job nearly as well without all those years at the front of a classroom. And I got back in front of a classroom in spring 2014, teaching a course in BU's philosophy department on Indian philosophy that I plan to teach again in future years.