Sunday, September 6, 2009

Teaching Company: Senior Education

Some years ago a co-worker lent me tapes of lectures given by a history professor in Oregon. Her sister was taking the class and was fascinated by his take on American History. He was wonderful, informative, funny. When he talked about the exams coming up, I knew I wouldn’t be taking them.

That experience planted a seed with me. I don’t have a long commute, and now that I’m retired, I don’t commute at all. When I was working I loved the books on tape. When books on CD came out it was even better, because I didn’t have to worry about the tape breaking and tangling. One of the first books I took from the library was the first volume of the Balkan Trilogy, by Olivia Manning. The second and third volumes were harder to find, but by the time I did I was thoroughly hooked on the idea that even short commutes were opportunities to listen and learn.

By the time I retired from my city job and gone to work (you guessed it!) at the library, I had learned that books on tape or CD could be brought indoors – I did not have to drive around just to hear what was going to happen next.

Then a misaddressed catalogue arrived from “The Teaching Company” ( Remembering those history tapes, I spent an afternoon studying the catalogue before I put it in the right mailbox. The catalogue announced a special sale on certain courses, if I ordered right away. (There are always some courses on sale, but I didn’t know that then). I was hooked. The courses ranged from Biblical History to Physics for the Non-Physicist, to the Symphonies of Beethoven (and so much more!). Now I am addicted. I have studied the Divine Comedy by Dante and the History of the Supreme Court. I have watched videos on the History of the Universe and the History of Western Art. I have been, through these courses, in the lecture halls of colleges and universities all over the country.

At the moment I have two courses going – the History of American Literature, and a History of Great Western Literature. I am experiencing the American Civil War and the Trojan War all at the same time, driving back and forth from the grocery store, or from the Bay Area visiting the children and grandchildren.

The opportunities for learning are endless and exciting now that it isn’t just about required courses or earning a living. For me, the Teaching Company has been a fantastic resource.