Teach

“Tell me which of his classes to take! Make me love him,” the message read.

“Huh?” I thought, slightly taken aback. How do you make someone love a particular instructor? I don’t think you can.

I’ve taken classes all my life. Most of us have. Formal schooling as a kid, college, and even on the job training, it’s a life-long process regardless of whether we see it that way or not. My mom is a teacher of dance. I’ve been a teacher of sorts over the years, although not in a traditional school classroom setting. Parents are teachers. Without question, our kids will teach us things we had no idea we needed to learn.

I remember my first jobs as a kitchen assistant at a retirement center, later as a sales associate in multiple retail establishments, then as a waitress, and even as a bank teller, manager and officially a corporate trainer. All of these seemingly unrelated positions had the common thread of teaching. We may not always love every teacher or instructor we have in school or on the job, but we can learn something from each.

My son had a particularly rough PE teacher one year. They got into round after round of power struggles. (My son does have an individual learning plan for autism-related accommodations, but this teacher did not read the plan, much less follow it’s directives. It was rocky to say the least.) She was not his favorite person – teacher or otherwise. I let both kids know that while you will likely not love everything about a teacher, co-worker, or boss you will have, you can learn from them, even the not-favorites. Dubious, they questioned my logic until I explained one of my least-liked teachers.

He was a 7th grade social studies teacher that was nearing retirement. He was the quintessential monotoned-voiced, gray-haired, probably sick of middle schoolers, oldest crank I had ever seen. He looked like he must have been at least 104. (My adult self realizes he was probably in his 60’s, but aged prematurely due to his loathing of teenagers). His classroom was always just about 5 degrees warmer than was comfortable. He would drone on and on about some civilization or other, regularly dimming the lights for a bit while we watched the most ancient film (on an actual 2-reel projector) about how said civilization lived or were wiped out in battle. The merciless clock had a deafening second hand that seemed to take its sweet time moseying around the blurring numbers. “Did time actually move backward?” I would wonder when looking at it for the 18th time in 3 minutes. Having his class after lunch was a unique form of torture. We all struggled to keep from falling asleep. The fear of succumbing to the sandman was not due to the possibility of embarrassment from accidentally drooling on the desk, or even snoring in front of our peers. The poor souls who gave in to their exhaustion were met with the intense whack of a yard stick slammed on their desktop. That stick created a gust of wind it was whipped down so hard. Not only would you pucker, gasp sharply, and make you question if you had just died, it would draw the attention of everyone in the room to humiliate you. The overall lesson was this teacher was someone to be feared above all else.

Even with teachers like him, I still learned. I learned that some teachers use humiliation as a tool. If I was ever in a teaching capacity, I recognized (even if I was unable to articulate it at the time), that fear is not an effective tactic nor is shame. Fear and shame inhibit learning. Can I tell you anything I learned in that class in terms of social studies? Absolutely not. But I can in crisp detail, outline the way I felt, describe the skin-prickling heat, and the intense urgency I felt to be done with those 55 minutes each day.

Certainly not the ideal, valuable lessons were learned. The same is true when we look at any kind of class – be it a grade school teacher, a dance instructor, or a fitness professional. Similar to story-tellers, teachers all bring their own unique something to any lesson. If someone isn’t rocking your socks off, okay. No big deal. Find someone who does. We can learn something.

Even if it’s not the intended lesson.

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