Uselessly Wise

Older and wiser.  The more attentive experience, the more wisdom.  Years ago I handcrafted a stone house.  I was a professional carpenter for five years.  So I have opinions about house building and design. Yet I am not going to build another house or even remodel one.  I am in my last house.  No person is going to ask my advice about house construction and though I might occasionally spout off spontaneously, no one will take such “advice” seriously and why should they?  In Joseph Conrad’s aching phrase, I am “uselessly wise.”

I could name other areas where I have opinions informed by experience: Furniture building and design, cooking with a wok, playing golf, bicycle touring, even hitchhiking. Useless wisdom to anyone but myself.  And even for me less useful now.  All that really remains is  wonder at the privilege of living on this planet.

There is, however, one area where I am still usefully wise.  That is teaching math.  With over thirty years of reflective experience – study, striving, failing ,succeeding, changing, experimenting, and learning about people learning,  I have formed views on  curriculum, grading, mental models, and classroom design among others.  I am still suffering  the daily slings and arrows of classroom dynamics.  Teaching is such an intense  human endeavor.  Here my experience counts.

I intend to keep working until I have a reason to quit and then go gracefully.  In the back of my head though is a fear – the fear that in retirement I would become “uselessly wise”  and lose last threads of connection to this full and useful life.


About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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