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William Nesbitt AUSTIN, TX — The late R&B singer Aaliyah scored a chart-topper with the song “Age ain’t nothing but a number,” which boasted that regardless of age “throwing down ain’t nothing but a thing.”

However, does that hold true for a teacher “throwing down” scholarly lessons after he or she hits the Big 4-oh?

Dr. William Nesbitt, chair of the department of interdisciplinary studies at Beacon College, confronted that $100,000 question at the 131st Annual Modern Language Association Conference.  The annual meeting, held this year in Austin, Tx., welcomes the largest gathering of teachers and scholars in the humanities.

As part of a four-segment, “The Oldest Profession: Teaching and Aging” panel, Nesbitt chronicles his transitions in a march to age 40 — contrasting pedagogy on both sides of the chronological yardstick.

“Even the number 40 suggests something,” he writes. “The ‘open four’ as many people write it looks like a capital H, with one leg hacked off, as if the character is in the act of surrendering, arms stretched up, before another limb is removed. The zero beside it looks empty.”

“But there are other perspectives,” he continues. “The ‘closed four’ gives us a serene image of stability and wisdom as it resembles a yoga practitioner holding the tree pose (vrkasana). The form of the unbroken zero infinitely flowing into itself seems so complete.”

This was his first presentation at the prestigious conference, where selecting panels and abstracts is strongly competitive. It was also the first non-research paper he has presented professionally.

“I wanted to try writing something about myself and my life rather than someone else’s life or work,” Nesbitt says. “It’s always good experience, and just knowing that I was able to accomplish getting accepted, writing the paper, and delivering the paper is an achievement for me.”

Yet, the ultimate triumph for mankind — particularly teachers — his paper observes, is understanding the brief vapor that is life, breathing it in, and exhaling shareable experiences with those in your orbit.

“That we will not endure seems unendurable, but this condition is unavoidable, and, therefore, of no use worrying about.  If we are rushing headlong toward oblivion, we might as well enjoy the sensation of wind on our skin and try to see and pass along a few things on the way out. The light won’t last but it is all the more beautiful because of this.”


Beacon College is the first institution of higher education accredited to award bachelor’s degrees exclusively to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and other learning differences.