The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On Adulthood and becoming a "Grown-Up"

Today I began my second job teaching a course at Northland Community and Technical College. This semester I have been hired to teach a section of developmental psychology. I have taught this class before and have most of the material as far as lecturing in hand. However, what I enjoy about teaching at NCTC is the different population of students. There are much smaller classes (less than 25 in my class), students of all ages, students of different cultures and background, and not a psychology major in the mix. This presents to me some unique challenges in that I feel that I need to be even more prepared to teach this class.

By this I mean that I wish to employ much more in class activities, discussions, and out of class assignments than with my first class (60+). Today I started with the usual first day introductions and course procedures, but then went straight away into the material covering the various philosophical debates that are common in this field (are people good or bad, nature vs nurture, global vs context driven development, and so forth). For classes that I plan to use discussion (which are quite a few when the class is small enough) I start off the first day with discussion. Get the students used to talking to each other and giving their ideas.

Unfortunately one of the most interesting discussions in this class for me personally will not be held until after the mid-term. This is the discussion of when adulthood begins and adolescence ends. This has always been of interest to me, primarily because my population of interest is the college student (typically on the cusp of these two categories).

For me personally I have found that I view being an adult and being a "grown-up" as different. This is probably due to what it meant to me as a child to go to or ask a grown-up. I see my self (finally) as an adult, but not as a "grown-up." For me being a grown-up means that you have the answers to all of the important questions, that you can engage in things without asking for permission or worrying about consequences, and generally being this being that you can go to for all of your needs. For me, I do not feel this way. I feel I am adult. I no longer feel that I can depend on my parents for monetary support (though I know they would be there if needed). I no longer feel that I have limitations on me because of my age (I can freely drink in a bar, buy cigarettes, drive a car, and rent a car). I also feel that I am fully responsible for myself, and for my family.

However, there are things that I thought of what grown-ups had that I do not. I do not know all of the answers. I may not be completely reliable. I have my faults. I do worry about the consequences, and I still need permission to do things. Think back to when you were a kid. Many of us felt that we wanted to be adults because of all of the things that we could do then (go to bed late, come and go as we pleased, buy big expensive things, not have to ask for permission to get a cookie). But now most of us who are adults will yearn for those childhood years. We had so little to worry about. No cars and their problems, no mortgages, no debt, no spouse to check in with, no aging parents, and no daily chores (at least not on the scale that we as grown-ups need to deal with).

I have come to the realization that there are probably very few true "grown-ups" in the world as I have described. And I think that not many people would identify themselves as a grown-up in this regard. As adults we know that we are fallible, we make mistakes, we don't know all of the answers, and we can be unreliable. But we tend to try to hide that from our children as a form of protection. They look up to us as grown-ups, even if that is not how we view ourselves.


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