As a result of the length of time I have been in school (K-12, 4 years high school, 4 year college, 2 years Masters, 2+ years PhD) I’ve likely had more contact with teacher’s in a teacher/student setting than most. I’ve come in contact with a few that have been total assholes and a few that have been inspirational. Most however, have just come and gone without making any considerable impact. Some memorable/influential moments I can recall at the moment:
Burns – High School History. I found this guy to be a pompous ass. He did not attempt to relate to his students in any way. He came in to class, attempted to impart whatever knowledge he chose for the day and that was it. I learned that I did not want to be like this guy.
Main – High School Coach. After being assaulted by another lunatic teacher, this guy calls me in to his office and intimidates me and instructs me to not tell anyone what happened. Lesson. It was nice of him to look out for his friend, but this was a serious enough situation that he made the wrong decision. He should have valued the safety of a student over his friendship.
Payne – High School Science. A true inspiration. This lady was so nice and nurturing. Always had a smile on her face and was willing to help in any way. Taught me that it was ok to be yourself and teachers don’t have to act like authoritarian asses to try and gain respect.
Freshman College Advisor – I did not agree with one of my professors on a final grade and I was really upset. I was talking to my advisor, with whom I had a real informal relationship. So, I was swearing and being emotionally expressive. He told me I should go talk to the professor. I said no because I was too upset and was worried I would cuss out the professor. He told me that I should go and do just that. So, I did. Big mistake. As much as I liked my advisor, he really shouldn’t have told me to cuss out a professor. That guy did not react well. It was not the mature approach. I am still not sure why he advised me to do it and what he thought I might learn. What I did learn was that I should not listen to everyone’s advice, even someone who is in the position of “advisor.” I learned to listed to recommended courses of action and choose to do what I feel is the right decision, not what someone else says just because they “said so.”
I could go on and on with this list. I think this shows that one value of education is not just what we learn in the classroom, but what we learn from our interactions and relationships with people. As I teach, I always keep this in mind. I let my students push the boundaries and make mistakes. I tell them it is okay to question people in authority. They need to learn to be independent thinkers, stand-up for the values they believe in and be themselves. Even though I did not like some of these teachers, I was able to learn something from my relationship with them.