#46 My Favorite Teacher
I can not tell you what the exact qualities are that defines a teacher of excellence because your opinion may be different than mine. There is one teacher that I have thought of fondly over the years, and she has held a special place in my heart. Her name is Mrs. Nicholson, and she taught me High School physics. She wasn't just special because she was smart and knew her subject, She was special because within her teaching techniques she had a commitment to her students that held a belief every student could learn excellence. She loved her students and she radiated that emotion every day. She explained concepts a little slower than other teachers, all the while scanning the room to make sure she had everyone's engagement. She asked questions often and there were never bad questions. She demonstrated boundless energy and patience. She was always prepared with the equipment we would need for the experiments that would follow the lessons. One person from our group would get the materials and together we would assemble the pieces as directed. She would state the objective, now called outcome, long before it was fashionable. Late in the semester one of my friends remarked that the class was too easy because the lessons were spoon fed. Can you imagine? Physics being easy because the teacher taught it too well? And this was seen as a problem?
Carole would circulate around the room during experiments and ask a student to explain what he was doing, and why. She carefully crafted her lessons so that notes corresponded to what we were doing, This was unlike an instructor I had for a two-day conference. I don't remember what it was about. I do know she said she liked her own notes better than the scope and sequence of the curriculum. We were told we would get the best of both worlds because she would tell us both so we had better write fast, I don't know what the h she said. This was never the case with Carole.
Tests were directly related to materials taught. This was unlike University when a word and definition were given. Then on the multiple guess test the word was given. A was the first part of the definition, B was the second part of the definition, and you found out later C was the correct answer.
In every classroom in University, I would get to class early and sit front row center. I forced myself to focus and memorize the information as it was given. This cut down on my study time. The classes I sat in the back were the survey ones that had at least 100 students. The reason I am telling you this is because in 2nd year University I sat in the back row next to Mike for Physics 101. The instructor was unraveling before our eyes, Sentences didn't seem to follow one another. Questions were more often met with a scolding that if You had paid attention, you would know the answer. Mike and I talked and played word games in our notebooks during this lively instruction.
Our University midterm was a take home exam. We could use any reference. After realizing my Physics notebook and the exam bore little resemblance, I took out my High School Physics notebook and got to work. Let me explain the curve this professor used. He took the highest grade in the class, subtracted it from 100, and added that number on to everyone's score. When the exams were corrected, all students were told to wait outside the professor's office. You gave him your name, and he looked through the pile and handed you the test. You should know there were no A's given on this exam, except for mine. The professor handed me my paper grade up, a 97.
There were 120 students in that class and my grade went around the room in 2.5 nano seconds. Nobody likes a show off, especially if it cut 15 points off of your Physics exam. Now why did I tell you this story? Excellent teachers matter. Their instruction goes far beyond the 8 corners of a classroom. You look back with fond memories and stand just a little bit taller, and your smile is just a little wider. You take your observations and carry them forth to your own classroom, and strive for every student to get a 97. Thank you, Mrs. Nicholson.