Re-post. I may have to update this list after I graduate. I’ve had the privilege to learn from exceptional teachers who also happen to be professors.
This article caught my attention:
This kid says she’ll remember this teacher when she’s 75.
Take a look, I’ll wait.
I get the feeling that having a teacher that inspires you is a rare thing these days. I could be wrong. I hope I am. There are the fun ones, the brilliant ones, the lazy ones, the strict ones, and any combination of these labels.
But the ones that you remember forever are the ones that cared – not just about what you did in class, but what you’ll do after your time with them is up. The ones that cared about YOU, mostly academically and often times otherwise. They made that their job.
They’re the ones that even though they had a student label – crazy, harsh, chill, etc. nobody really cared what it was.
I hope that as you were watching the video and as you’re reading this post (if anyone is reading this post) that at least one name comes to mind – one teacher that you’ll remember forever. In a life season where everything is spinning on its head at unfathomable speeds – that is, adolescence of course – I think it’s important, nay essential, to have someone with a true gift for teaching there to keep you focused, to nurture your learning. Not just to discover what you’re good at, but who you are.
They may not realise they’re contributing to your discovery of your identity at the time (or maybe they will). You probably won’t either. I certainly didn’t.
I have no idea what the average number of inspiring teachers people have in high school is these days, but I can tell you that I had the honour, blessing and privilege of 4 of them. And here’s what I learned from each (in no particular order).
MR. BAYAT – Gr. 11 and 12 physics and chemistry.
He was my tutor, and I was jealous of his students at the high school he taught at.
Up until grade 11 physics, school was a blast and a breeze and my biggest fear was getting an 85.
For the first time in my life, I was failing. (On the bright side, pride was no longer much of an issue afterwards.)
My confidence evaporated at an astronomical rate in moles per second and my heart plummeted to my stomach with a force and acceleration greater than that of gravity everytime any sort of evaluation came up.
Like a racing altimeter on a crashing plane, every mark update was painful.
I had never failed a test before. I never had to ask for after school help before. Why was this happening? I failed once and it shook my world. It also seeded my dislike for learning physics and to a lesser degree, chemistry.
My identity was in my marks. Failing once meant that I was a failure. “It’s just one set back” never got processed in my brain. It was inexplicable and illogical and silly, and yet that’s how blindsided I was by it.
Bayat helped me get the grade – I impressed a handful of people with my improvement. He also achieved the impossible by making my least favourite subjects (because they were my weakest) fascinating, if not enjoyable.
But let’s not talk about the academics since, despite my success I remember nothing and am very far away from the academic fields of chemistry and physics. Obviously what I took away from learning under him, was not academic.
Lesson 1: DON’T GIVE UP. Teachers ought to care simply that you learn. Whether it’s from their lectures or your mistakes is irrelevant.
Lesson 2: TALENT can be measured in potential – how far you can go with what you have. Not how you or others judge your performance. You are more than a percentage.
Lesson 3: BE CONFIDENT in what you’ve learned. Defend yourself, respectfully challenge your teachers and your peers, be grateful when corrected. The point is learning.
In many respects, I learned these 3 lessons over and over again from all four of these teachers, every year I had them. Same lessons, different numbers — situations.
MS. GOLDMAN – Gr. 11 English.
She was an LTO, a long-term on-call while my much stricter English teacher was on mat leave.
I was doing alright in 3UENG but not as well as I hoped, in terms of numbers. It’s important to note however that at my high school, an 80 meant you were considered a genius. If not in English language and literature, then in pinpointing exactly what your teacher wants to read amidst an infinite range of subjective interpretation. I’m not sure which type I was. I didn’t feel like either.
Ms. Goldman was a refreshing change after that first half of the semester, and some marks started to climb.
Now, I won’t comment or compare with how the two teachers marked us. Again, what I took away from being Ms. Goldman’s student was not academic.
Like the other three names in this post, the first thing I noticed when she started teaching us is that she genuinely cared about the work we submitted, and how that reflected us as individuals, as a class and as a school.
She was actively participating in this unspoken dialogue, interacting with us on such a level that her students could believe her when she gave positive feedback and trust her when she gave constructive criticism. And we loved her for it.
This is perhaps the strongest theme or trait these four names have in common:
She cared, and that made us care about the subject, our work, ourselves and each other, whether we liked or were good at English or not.
But for me personally, I’ll remember her forever because she embraced creativity and taught and encouraged me to do the same, whether she realised it or not.
Many projects in that class had very little guidelines. It could be as insightfully crazy as you wanted or as crazily insightful or just standard clear and concise.
No matter how you learned, the point was that you learned.
For me, that was writing an 11 page (~12K words) “sequel” to Shelley’s Frankenstein.
I’d been writing stories for most of my life. But this project. The comments she left and the mark I got left me more than chuffed. I was stunned that she actually read it all. But that selfish pride soon faded away. After all, she was just one person.
And yet, one person is enough. It wasn’t the comments or the mark that did it. Anyone can slap a number on something. But when she handed it back to me, her eyes seemed to smile, “I’m proud of you.”
Then my mom read it and said so audibly. She was genuinely impressed as well, unlike some other times, but she’s my mom… So bias is a factor.
Anyway, after that, and only after that, did I actually begin to think that maybe writing was something to consider.
But it was a thought too dream-like to indulge and I didn’t want to admit it to myself. As a result, it took a couple years for me to go actually dive in and go for it. In the meantime, those two years were spent experimenting… literally and figuratively. It was painful. And necessary.
MRS. HEISLER – Gr.10 Math
I realize I’m going in backwards order here. I should correct what I said with Ms. Goldman. She only reaffirmed what I learned with Mrs. Heisler a year earlier.
Much in the same way, those grade 10 “anything projects” allowed me to let my creativity loose.
1. Create a comic STRIP explaining how to solve a binomial expansion.
…I created a 27 page Stargate-based comic booklet.
(She’s a fan, don’t worry.)
2. Create a presentation on how to use the quadratic formula.
…I spent a couple weeks creating an espionage choose your own adventure on Keynote for the class to play, with me as the game master.
I’ll never forget what she told me on the last day of class:
“I would love to open up your head and explore your brain one day.”
It was, and perhaps still is, my favourite compliment I’ve ever received.
I learned in that class, and not at all in the conventional way. I learned because I was allowed to be creative without fear. I was allowed, because she was creative without fear. (I still remember some of the many QF songs we heard).
MR. COLLEY – Gr. 9 – 12 Music.
Yep, so this is definitely in backwards order. As my first high school teacher I ever met, this whole narrative might have begun with him.
From the moment I met him, I could tell he was one of the crazy ones. But also one of the kind ones. Then I was a student in his class, and I saw the way he worked. His passion for music, but more importantly his passion for students and their growth, academic primarily, but otherwise as well. (Well maybe not physically. Although he did poke fun at us shorties.)
It was the first time I’d seen anyone fulfilling their calling and it blew my mind. I wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last. Secretly, I think it’s why people stay in the music program for all 4 years.
Yeah the marks are easy, the trips are fun, but the rehearsal hours can be brutal – and yet Colley is always, always ready to go. (With his never ending coffee supply of course.)
I can’t speak for the hundreds of students he’s had and whose names he somehow never forgets, but even if I wasn’t a band geek already, I might have stayed just to see what he would do next, how he would do it and why.
There was something different about him. Other teachers care, but he’s next level. He’s genuine, he’s tough, and he’s hilarious. Perhaps the three key things a teacher needs to help students learn and grow in a healthy way.
(Let me be the first to admit that I am no pedagogical expert – these are simply my observations based on my personal experiences)
When I learned that he was also a brother in Christ… Suddenly things made so much more sense, and things clicked very quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be Christian to be a great teacher. Many of them aren’t, and conversely, very few who are, are akin to Colley.
What I do mean is that the “why?”s could be answered.
Why get to school before 7 am and stay til 5 to help students? Why listen diligently to all 300+ students play up to 48 scales each? Why push and spur on a student when it would be understandable if he gave up on them?
This is what he was made to do. Encouraging students is his passion, music is his skill. He did not openly preach the gospel, that wasn’t his job.
Instead he taught us to work diligently, to find our passion, to encourage and be encouraged, to build community, and to care and listen to one another unconditionally. What’s more is that he taught us – or me anyway – all this with his actions first, across the 4 years, and his words last, during our last day together as a band.
It was during my one on one sessions with him that he taught me to put my identity in Christ. Not marks nor praise. In Christ alone.
He loved us first, so we too must love others with the same unconditional love that is manifest in how we use our gifts and talents.
Now… I can’t help but feel a bit vain going on about my greatest high school academic successes throughout this post.
So I’ll sum up what the connection between all of this and my life now to show that in many ways, I am indeed who I am today because of these people and their success at what I call real, true, teaching.
Without Mr. Bayat, I would not have the confidence or patience to persevere after a failed script or query.
Without Ms. Goldman, I would not have thought to be remotely capable of writing anything entertaining or worth reading.
Without Mrs. Heisler, I would never have the guts to share my work with other creatives, let alone the more sane people.
Without Mr. Colley, I would not have seen what being the light and the salt of the earth or a calling fulfilled, looks like in real life.
These people and so many others like them need medals for both leading by example and then passing that example on in their students. Who and where would we be without them?