One of my pet hates is bad teaching. That’s because I value education enormously, so seeing it done poorly stings. So it’s a breath of fresh air to see this:
So it came as something of a shock, in the second semester of my senior year, to encounter a pair of teachers who told us that recognizing how little you knew was what really mattered in life.
To be honest, the question that leads the post is more interesting to me than the story, because it invites you to think. It’s so easy to fall into the trap, as a student, of seeing a teacher as a taskmaster or enforcer. With hindsight, though, things can become clearer.
What about me?
I was lucky enough to have many good teachers. My parents were two, but I suppose in the context of this question they don’t count because they had decades to influence me!
My grade 7 teacher was uncompromising but fair, and, with a fellow student so I didn’t feel too singled out, pushed me harder academically than I think I’d been pushed before. The years before and after were a blur for me, and I find little inspiration in them. But I can distinctly remember being set hard trigonometry problems, in a corner of the classroom, and puzzling through them to reach the beautiful ‘aha’ moments that are such a reward when learning maths and a concept falls into place. I was never particularly big on maths, but being trusted to set up to a higher level, when so often I operated in an academic comfort zone, was a big step that really prepared me for the years to come.
My Geography teacher taught me a completely different lesson, and it has both good and bad sides, but was important nonetheless. She was young, and the class was boisterous at times – Geography was seen as a softer way of taking science than, say, Physics or Chemistry. I absolutely loved it, particularly weather. But it was nothing to do with Geography that stuck out in my mind. One was that I saw properly, for the first time, the challenges that a young teacher can face. In many ways it reminded me of watching someone, lesson after lesson, week after week, walking up a loose pile of stones, sometimes sliding backwards and always wrestling to keep a firm footing to move forward.
One day, we’d been set a multiple choice test, and I felt sure I had a certain answer correct. It was. But it was graded wrong. Two of the answers were, strictly, correct, but I had selected the wrong correct one, according to the textbook. I complained heartily, but was met with the response “it isn’t the most correct answer”. Reeling, I retreated, but it taught me one very important thing: how inappropriate it is to force someone to adopt a predetermined answer as their own (a tactic employed by oh so many aggressive talk show hosts). I was never a fan of English in high school, but as an avid reader and occasionally keen writer, that lesson sticks in my mind as a time when the nuance and meaning of words were stripped away into an unneccessary, binary choice.
Hmmm. Or is this all post-hoc layering of meaning onto arbitrary events?
Anyway, what about you? Can you remember your teachers? Did they inspire you with their approach, or give you a hard knock you needed?
And then, because pointing to excellent bits of gold on the internet is easier than producing it, have a look at Palestine through the lens of Andy Spyra. Brilliant imagery.