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KCC Faculty on Teaching

KCC Faculty on Teaching

Q&A with Joseph Terry | Philosophy

How did you get into teaching?
At university, a friend of mine said to me “You should become a teacher!” He said this in response to my helping him explain a particular concept in physics. I laughed in his face and answered “never!” Several years later, I took a job at the Writing Center at Kingsborough and, to my surprise, realized how much I enjoyed helping students with their work, both individually and collectively. An opportunity to teach my own course was presented to me and, as they say, the rest is history! I’d stumbled into teaching.

What career did you imagine for yourself when you were in college?
I imagined myself doing research in astrophysics while working for a lab. Having the opportunity to work as an undergraduate assistant in that field helped me to realize that, while I enjoyed such work, it wasn’t for me. I also studied philosophy and had a deep love for that discipline, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. At that time, I did not think about teaching…

What do you love about teaching?
I love having the opportunity to share my joy and knowledge with others. For me, teaching is a wonderful occasion to journey with students through the fascinating world of philosophy, while exploring the perennial questions that, in one sense, are part of our mother tongue as human beings! I also enjoy the experience of watching them make connections, both intellectually and with each other, as a community of learners.  

What’s your favorite teaching experience?
I’ve been fortunate to have many memorable experiences, but a few stand out. One time, a class discussion was so engaging no one wanted to leave when our session came to an end. Another time, I took a class out near the beach and discussed with them the nature of reality, causality, and change. What makes these and other experiences stand out to me is the level of engagement and connection we felt. These were moments that felt as if time stopped.

In what ways do you bring your professional experience into the classroom?
I try to model for students a certain type of questioning that is decisive for philosophical inquiry. In addition, I seek to cultivate within them a particular kind of disposition that is akin to wonder, awe, and curiosity – essential ingredients for the soul of a philosopher.

What advice do you have for current students?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Courage is essential, especially when it comes to pursuing truth since one may in fact discover something one did not expect. This, however, is a gift, because a new world is opening before you – one that invites you to explore!