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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Priceless Gift Exchanges between Faculty and Students | Teaching Professor Blog

Photo: Maryellen Weimer
summarizes, "Teachers and students can give each other priceless gifts. “Professor Jones changed my life!”

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog

How many times have I told the story of my advisor who was the first person to suggest I could be a college professor? We love to hear and tell these stories because they are remarkable and inspiring. A student and a teacher connect during one small segment of the student’s life, yet through that tiny window of time can blow a gust strong enough to change the direction of that life.

And students gift us with stories that bear witness to life-changing encounters with teachers. I recently read Fred Heppner’s description of the three teachers who changed his life. It’s a lovely reflection, full of wise insights. Teachers who change students’ lives don’t have to be great lecturers. Heppner describes one of his favorites as a “terrible” lecturer, the second was “okay,” and the third used memorized scripts that started and ended with timely precision. That teachers can change lives without giving great lectures doesn’t justify delivering poor ones. But it does point to a part of teaching that transcends methods. When teachers change lives, it’s the human element that inspires, connects, and motivates in transformative ways. 

The Teaching Professor Blog

Teachers who change lives aren’t perfect. They don’t do everything right and they certainly don’t change every student’s life. In fact, most teacher aspirations don’t involve changing lives. More mundane goals drive our efforts. We want students to be able to solve problems, evaluate arguments, write clearly, be open-minded, and believe in themselves and in the value of hard work. Most of us consider the semester a success if we see progress in any of these areas.

Even if a teacher did set out to change students’ lives, how would that process work? How would you select the students whose lives you plan to change? And then how would you make it happen? In fact, most of the time, we don’t even see it happening. When we later hear about it (and sometimes we don’t), we’re surprised. We struggle to explain what transpired. Could magic be the apt descriptor?
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Source: The Teaching Professor Blog


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