By Szymon Galazka
Ms. Patricia Locke has been a tutor at St. John’s College since 1984, the year she received her PhD in Philosophy at Boston College.
It is usually quite easy to spot Ms. Locke, the College’s source of positivity, even from afar. Many students can surely picture her smiling, laughing and conversing with students for whom she is always ready to make time. Smiling, of course, until you enter a seminar classroom every Monday and Thursday and like myself, observe how the humor gives place to insightful and thorough reflections requiring very careful consideration that leave the students speechless, oftentimes in awe. Minutes before one of these seminars, Ms. Locke spoke with me briefly about her time at St. John’s College and offered some tips for students, both incoming and current ones.
Transition to the St. John’s College classes requires major adjustments, which are not only found challenging by the incoming students, but also the newly appointed tutors. Ms. Patricia Locke came here the year she finished her PhD studies and, as she said, knew and read about the curriculum here. Nonetheless, coming to class to converse about math and sciences – disciplines she had not touched for a while – was both surprising and challenging. Quickly on, however, she observed and studied how the parts of the program, seemingly remarkably different, share important similarities that make them interconnected. In light of the amount of work that tutors have to do, it is easy to perceive how it could be stifling. But Ms. Locke said that the more time she has spent here, the more freed she has felt by the curriculum.
At the same time, Ms. Locke admitted that her undergraduate education has in some ways prepared her for a place like St. John’s College. The lecturing style that Johnnies are not exposed to in class has its shortcomings. They can lean towards showings how things are, thus, giving a one-sided perspective that takes criticism into consideration very differently. But the background in philosophy paid off tremendously in the long-term. Ms. Locke explained that it is how her interest in questions arose and began to develop, and this was further supported by her training in logic.
She instills such an interest about questions on a daily basis to the students for whom she has a number of tips, too. Just as tutors come to the College with varying backgrounds, so do the students. It is why it is important to study with others not just in class, but outside, too. The sense of a community and a diversity of opinions that are present in the classrooms can be extended far beyond them to let students become better by studying with more experienced students in different areas of the Program. It is why, she says, students should also take advantage of the presence of student assistants, whether it is in Ancient Greek, math or writing. The most important thing, however, is left for the end, as Ms. Locke mentions sleep with a smile on her face. It appears to be particularly important here, where a significant portion of our education requires not memorization for tests and quizzes, but careful reading and thoughtful conversations.
In the meantime, you should look forward to Ms. Locke’s ideas for future preceptorials! Preceptorials are upperclassmen electives allowing the students to focus on a particular author’s work more deeply for a longer period of time. She said with a smile on her face that in two-three years she would like to do a preceptorial on Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition. What’s more, she also added phenomenology and art, which are her personal interests. With all that, there is definitely a lot to look forward to!