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KCC Faculty on Teaching

KCC Faculty on Teaching

Carlene Barnaby

Q&A with Bruno Gullì| Philosophy

How did you get into teaching?
It was a kind of natural process, given what I had been studying both institutionally and on my own. My main passion in life has always been writing. I soon realized that, for me, teaching was an essential complement to writing. Today, I see teaching and writing as equally important in my intellectual development and professional career. But it was in 1993 when, thanks to the help of my twin brother, I started teaching English as a Second Language at Long Island University Brooklyn, that I decided that teaching was absolutely what I wanted to do. I taught ESL for about eight years. Then, in 2001, I started teaching philosophy.

What career did you imagine for yourself when you were in college?
Teaching was the career I mainly imagined for myself when I was in college, both in Italy and in the U.S. I could have started my teaching career in my mid-20s in Italy, but I wanted to travel, and so I took a long detour. For many years, I worked in restaurants and did various other jobs while continuing to study and write before I got back to the idea of teaching.

What do you love about teaching?
Teaching is transformative. It is not about imparting anything to anyone. As I often tell my students at the outset of a new semester, we are going to undertake a journey together, a journey I have already taken other times, though every time that journey is singularly different. Teaching and learning—the two always go together—entails undergoing an experience with the power to do things individually and collectively. It is precisely this transformative practice that I love about teaching.

What’s your favorite teaching experience?
It is difficult for me to single out one favorite teaching experience. After 30 years of teaching, I can rather think of a succession of favorite experiences, as I have mostly had a very rewarding time in the classroom, both in person and online. For instance, I always enjoy the beginning of a new semester, when I meet new students with whom it is essential to build a good relationship from the start. But I also very much enjoy the end of the semester, when I can see the tangible results of the journey we have undertaken, in both the work of students and their kind words of appreciation. The most interesting moment for me is when students speak of the transformation they have experienced. It is not unusual for students who knew nothing of philosophy to begin with to let me know how the class has made a difference in their lives. For me, this is the greatest satisfaction and reward. Perhaps I can share a funny (and, to me, moving) story at this point. Once, a former student brought to my attention a comment that another student had posted on The post said, “Nice professer very helpful buh his accent kills me lol i think that the only reason i attend his class lol buh brillant philosophy teacher take him he will change ur life 🙂.” I later shared this on Facebook with the following comment, “I didn't know I had the ability to change people's life, nor did I think my accent was so bad.”

In what ways do you bring your professional experience into the classroom?
In addition to my 30 years of teaching experience, I bring my interdisciplinary training into the classroom – my lifelong experience in reading, writing, and researching. I’m always mindful that a classroom is a place (and time) of transformation, but I believe it has to happen in an organic way. It shouldn’t be imposed from the outside or from above. I encourage students to make connections and engage in complex thinking by assigning “thinking homework,” where they are asked to apply concepts we have discussed in an abstract way in class to the reality of daily life.

What advice do you have for current students?
Follow your dreams; think critically and independently by acquiring the proper tools and techniques to do so; and strive to be free. Use your skills to frame and structure your dream so it becomes concrete. Otherwise, it will remain in the terrain of wishful thinking, from which there is no exit, no line of flight, and no educational/professional and existential growth.