Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Good Teachers

I had three teachers at Columbia College when I was there as an undergraduate.  Polly Batterson taught me political science and she is still living.  Ron Taylor taught me psychology and unfortunately he has passed away.  The last one is Jim Metscher who died this year after a remarkable career of 35 years teaching mostly sociology.  I love all three of them and they live forever in my heart and mind influencing what I do everyday. I am surprised at how much I reference their inner voice that they created in me.  I also had two teachers in high school (Alan Charbeneau and Kathy Yount who taught me at Harrisburg), one in graduate school (Dr. Donaldson in the ELPA program), and none in elementary school.  As a matter of fact that is where I had my worst teachers.  So in over 20 years of teaching I have had six teachers.  That is about right.  Real teachers are rare and precious things. 

I am sure that not everyone would agree with my choices and I have to tell you that they all pretty much had their own styles. What made them good teachers?   Ron and Jim were polar opposites as to their approach to teaching. 

At times I am a good teacher but often not.  It takes a lot of spiritual and emotional energy to be a good teacher.  You have to love your students and nurture them while at the same time challenging and pushing them to do more than they want to do.  It is easier to just go through the motions.  I guess most things in life are that way.

Teaching is a handicraft and despite all the technology it cannot be mass-produced.   No video of the teachers I mentioned would do them justice.  You had to have been there in person in the same room.  Teaching is analog and exists in the present whereas training is digital and is infinitely reproducible.  Training lends itself to mass production techniques and although it is valuable in and of itself the two are very different.  Learning takes more energy and changes you on the inside in a way that training cannot touch.

In my other blog, Around Columbia, I am working on a tribute to Dr. Taylor.  I call it "The Last Assignment," and it comes directly from a project he suggested somebody should do. I hope I get a good grade but really it doesn't matter because it is the process of doing it that really matters.  You can check out that project at:  Around Columbia.

I am going to write more about the difference between teaching and training in my next post.  Please stay tuned.

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