Teaching and Learning in Retirement

I retired at age 64+, moved to Tampa, bought a new fishing/leisure boat, went to fishing school three times (was a slow learner), and worked on/publishing articles and books in my field, primarily ethics in government. Meanwhile, Kay began teaching in the USF OLLI program for seniors. Two years later she convinced the program coordinator to invite me to deliver a few lectures to seniors. That kicked off ten years and 27 classes of learning with seniors. Wow! What an experience.

Seniors who want to learn about new subjects or engage in stimulating exchanges are a delight, with one exception—the ideologue. The ideologue is the kind of person who knows the answers to everything, especially political things because, well, his belief system is cast in stone—no open mind here. Fortunately, these non-learners are few in number, far out numbered by curious, informed, and experienced seniors.

Great American West class

The 27 OLLI classes I taught by myself or with Kay started with a class on “Ethics Moments” … then moved on to “Corruption, Good, Bad & Ugly,” then a China collection (China Today, When China Rules the World, The New China: Myths and Realities, Inside China: Issues and Controversies, The China Week That Was) and ended with two fun, fun classes on “The Great American West” and “Authoritarian Populism & Democracy in the United States.” Whew!

The classes with Kay included “Conversations About the Good Society,” “Conversations About the American Dream,” “Imagining the Future,” “Life and Times of Great Americans,” “The Week That Was in American Politics and Government,” and “Aging Choices: Exploring the Road Ahead.” These classes were always robust, stimulating, and just fun happenings.

You might say that as the years went by we attracted a following of sorts, learners who wanted to be engaged and exposed to a new or different way of thinking about a subject matter. Looking back on those ten years, I can honestly say that these were my very best teaching years. Alas, I was never that successful with young students who populated my classes for 30 years. Go figure, huh?

Thank you, thank you dear seniors but, like all things in life, nothing lasts forever, does it? Now that we are in Colorado and have access to the OLLI program at Colorado State U., who knows?

[Special Message:  As Don would be the first to remind you, if he were still here in Tampa, classes for the 2020 Winter-Spring semester have started.  But the semester is young, and most classes still have openings, so take another look at the Class Catalog, find something that intrigues you, and sign up for it!  Register online or by calling Charise at 813-974-2403, option 1.]

Don Menzel is a past president of the American Society for Public Administration, author and international speaker on ethics reform. Before his recent move to Colorado, Don organized OLLI-USF’s China Special Interest Group. He also served as an OLLI-USF faculty member for over 10 years.  Bon voyage, Don!


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