Why I Teach: Gordon Jones Explains
“Most of us this time of year are wrapped up in survival and lost in the trees, so thank you for forcing me to think about why I am here.” So began Professor of Physics Gordon Jones’ “Why I Teach” presentation on Nov. 29. He divided his talk into three topics: why I teach, a push for large survey classes, and why I’m here at Hamilton.
Beginning with why I teach, Jones, the Litchfield Professor, recalled that most of his fellow graduate students wanted to go into industry and be the next Einstein. Few were headed for teaching careers. Of those who were, he said most wanted to teach the next Einstein.
We are privileged to be at this place where we really get to know each other and interact.
Jones wanted to teach the next accountant, he explained, because “the universe is so amazing and if you understand the reasons behind why things are the way they are, why that wonderful sunset is red, it gives the experience an additional dimension … Understanding things make the world a deeper and more interesting place and makes life a little richer.”
In his discussion of large survey classes, Jones reflected back on his own experiences in art history and music survey courses at Williams College, his undergraduate alma mater. Likening art and music to state parks – “they’re everywhere” – he related how he kept coming back to those courses as reference points after graduation.
For those who don’t plan to major in the subjects, they put things in context as do survey courses in many other subjects including physics.
Jones relayed how he interviewed with large research institutions as well as smaller colleges when he finished his post-doc work. “When I came back from interviews at Hamilton and places like it, my wife said I glowed.”
Reflecting on his decision to come to Hamilton he said, “We are privileged to be at this place where we really get to know each other and interact.” He pointed to texts from grad students seeking advice to a wedding invitation from an alumnus 10 years out as evidence of the bonds created on campus. “We are not just able to teach students [at Hamilton], but maybe help them become adults,” he posited in conclusion.