Sunday, May 22, 2011

My favourite teacher

I read my horoscope this morning, and it asked a question about the quality that made a teacher my favourite. The suggestion was that I take that quality into my interaction with a group of people.

Paradoxically, perhaps, this is one of the few weekends this spring when I am relaxing with my family and not teaching. But I have been thinking about this question, and focusing on one of the teachers who got the best out of me.

Here's what I believe, and it's not really a good fit for our test-monitored, credential-rich model of education. The quality shared by all of my best teachers is the ability to be curious about how I will encounter a subject or solve a problem. Whatever the subject matter expertise or technical skills of my teachers, the difference that made a difference was a curiosity about how I would learn.

I think we often miss this piece. It's easy to mistake it for a curiosity about the subject or a general "passion" for learning. These are both good things, but they are not the same thing. This piece is the ability to sit with me and pay attention to the way my mind is working as if it were likely to be interesting and useful and pleasing.

As a teacher, I know how easy and hard it is to not only enjoy someone's learning, but to remember to be curious about it, to hold the expectation that every learner offers me something new, that every student is a learner. That's why I am so grateful to the teachers who have given me this gift that nudged me deeper into learning and wider into the world.

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