After eight full years of formal education (or however back you want to trace it), what have I learned? What has stayed in terms of the knowledge in my brain? At first glance, the answer appears to be a short one: nothing. After four years of highschool and four years of university, all the details and intricacies of course material has faded away into oblivion. This is especially true for courses I cared absolutely nothing about. This indifference is usually caused by a lethal combination of lacklustre material with a less than sub-par teacher. I vividly remember the teacher I had for grade 10 science. We shall call her Miss Incompetent. Miss Incompetent was a strange creature. Not only was she totally inept in teaching the subject at hand, she didn’t even come with the modesty to hide the fact. A typical day in Miss Incompetent’s class consists of reading certain textbook pages scribbled on the board and then doing the textbook questions at the end of the chapters. During the time, she would be either 1.) using the classroom phone talking to who-knows-who or 2.) using the computer next door doing who-knows-what. Neither of those involve “taking questions from students”. It came as no surprise later on when I found out she normally taught the class Physical Education: what we students affectionately called “gym”.
Now if Miss Incompetent taught all my classes, I can confidently say I learned nothing all these years and probably would have ended up in construction. Thank goodness that was NOT the case. Along the way, I have had the pleasure of meeting teachers that were competent, intelligent, and actually cared about the students’ general well-being. A real teacher does not teach you facts and figures, a real teacher teaches you how to be a human being. A real teacher does not ask you questions, a real teacher ignites your curiosity so you learn to ask questions yourself. So for all the real teachers out there, thank you for all that you do and please, please continue doing what you do because it is so important. So important.
In sum: the question is not what you or I have learned in school but whether or not we continue asking questions and learning by ourselves.
Share your teacher horror stories below or, better yet, share a story about how a “real teacher” made a difference in your life.