My best profs…

I had a recent moment of reflection about teaching techniques that are effective. There are several profs whose courses I took…and never liked. I mean, not that I didn’t like the courses (well, in some cases the courses were difficult as well), but it was more the professors themselves that gave me a hard time for one reason or another. Actually, now that I think about it — there were some teachers in this category as well.

What I find is that during these high school/Cégep/university courses I was unmotivated and felt unloved by the teachers in question. I felt there was too much work to do and that the teacher was always trying to outsmart me (or, us). What I didn’t realize was that this particular technique was exactly what drove me and motivated me to want to perform better in those very courses. Despite the constant mind-game type of thing with the teacher, I was actually thriving. I realized that I thrive in problem-based, constructivist learning environments — and these teachers were all geniuses. (Side note: Aside from these initially unlikeable characters, I’ve had many other professors who were likeable the whole way through and were fantastic educators. There’s no question about how much I appreciate these truly kind people who are knowledgeable, but humble.)

Years later I still remember all of the course content and use it in my work and studies today. The knowledge that they imparted — which managed to reach me — has solidified and stayed with me for years. I didn’t realize it then, but I realize it now. I had one teacher in elementary school who was really good. No one who was in her grade 3 class will disagree. She was the best teacher any of us have ever had. She was kind, creative, loving, motivating, fun…and never too harsh or disciplinary. She had a rewards-based rather than punishment-based system to encourage positive behaviours and bring out latent talents in her students. She was obvious in her perfect teaching approach. I can’t say the same of these other teachers — but what I can say is that they were all slightly off-kilter, slightly different. Their alternative viewpoints and unique ways of seeing things are exactly what stuck with me and got me to think differently as well. Without them, I’d probably forever have adhered to some faulty groupthink that is propagated in many fields. So here’s a little thank-you note to those professors I didn’t really get along with, but learned a lot from. Kudos on being different, demanding a lot, and still getting your point across.

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