Photo by foxypar4
When I was in college, after my freshman year, I decided I was going to pick my teachers. First day of class I was deciding “is it worth my time to listen to this dude (or “dudette”) for the next semester?” And if they didn’t pass, I was dropping their class and signing up for another.
I had a very dry chemistry teacher the year before, brilliant guy, wrote his own book, but couldn’t teach, didn’t relate well to others. I fell asleep in class, skipped class, had a couple friends in class and we tried not to miss the same days and hopefully not miss the tests.
Amazingly I passed. But I vowed never again would I waste my time and money in a class I didn’t want to be in. I know you have to take certain classes to get your degree, but in a large university it is about choices.
And it wasn’t about the subject as it was the teacher. I had an human biology class that I dreaded taking, afraid it would be full of terms to memorize. But from day one I was hooked. The professor got us thinking about how things worked, why, engaged us in fun discussions. I learned more chemistry in his biology class than my chemistry class.
Now this may not be the traditional way to go to college, but being somewhat of a rebel, I decided to learn the things I wanted to learn, from those whom I wanted to learn from. It would be sad to spend time and money at an institution that offered cool stuff and not to participate because it wasn’t on your recommended schedule.
Guilt was gone. Freedom! Take whatever I pleased but still work towards graduation. Contrary to popular belief, I did not take underwater basket weaving. I did take a rock climbing class, a hiking class, a how to put on a campfire program class. More than one ceramic class, I had no idea it would be so much fun to squeeze that mud between my fingers and make stuff. My roommates got a kick out of the funky looking toilet I made and stuffed an air fern in the bowl. Creative writing. Learned I had talent there. Was kind to myself, one creative class and one active class each semester. One summer I took off with my sister and we took classes while hiking, canoing, horseback riding in the Tetons and Yellowstone. Now the class that taught me how to load a pack horse I’ve not used since, and forgotten. Yet the experience taught me much, and I passed off more general ed requirements.
As Teddy Towncrier was saying how cool it would be to spend a week with Randy Pausch, I was thinking of Randy’s students, how they were blessed. One of my self-imposed rules was if you find a great teacher, take their classes, who cares if they count towards you major. Maybe you are in the wrong major? Stephen Covey was teaching at the university, someone had giving me one of his books when I graduated from high school. I liked the book, so I took his class. Worth every minute.
I’d had many great teachers, not all as well known, but great talent just the same. I remember one of my favorite high school teachers that had a student teacher for a 6 weeks. (Tough spot for the student teacher, pretty big shoes to fill, who would have thought a social studies teacher could be so popular). The student teacher was very bright, but did not have the attention of the class. He’d switch from one technique to the next. Didn’t matter. He’d lost us. Asleep, visiting with each other, whatever, but he did not have our undivided attention. We had a discussion with the teacher later, learned that he flunked the dude. Harsh? Maybe, but as he explained, nice guy, knows his stuff, but unless he learns to relate to his students he will never make it as a teacher.
And I think that is the key, relating to students. He treated us as equals, shared knowledge, had discussions not lectures. True he lead discussions, but they were discussions, sometimes off track, but the material was covered, ideas planted, and we were encouraged to have our own thoughts, learn new things, think outside the box.
Thanks to all the teachers who relate to their students, care about each and everyone, adding their own personal touch to the class.