Here's to the teachers!

MAJeff here with his espresso.

A few years ago, when I was teaching back in Minnesota, there was a group of us first-year faculty who got together every Wednesday night for beer, pool, and chat. We had to switch bars a couple times--once because some folks weren't feeling very comfortable with the war-mongering in our usual bar when we were there during the invasion of Iraq, and another because I spent an hour getting harassed by some of the locals (it was an hour because I refused to give up public space, but threats of violence told me an hour was long enough)--but we kept at it for the year. Several of us ended up leaving town after the spring, so I don't think it kept going. I've not found something like since.

One of the things conversation turned to every night was teaching. Of course, some of it was complaining about our students. But a lot of it was of the, "What do you do when...?" or "How do you...?" or even "Class rocked today!" I don't have the citation handy, but one of us even published an article based on those weekly drinking excursions. (In the literature, it became about "peer-mentoring.") Coming from Sociology, Biology, English, Art Education, Math, Women's Studies, and Computer Engineering we often didn't have topical course information we could share. But, we talked about our classroom time, students with difficulties, difficult students, and the fact that none of them had ever heard of Billie Holliday. Those Wednesday nights with colleagues were honestly some of the best experiences of my teaching career.

I was reminded of those evenings recently. A few years ago, I was asked to put together a "Nuts and Bolts of Teaching" workshop for new Teaching Fellows where I'm doing my PhD. These are grad students who've spent time as Teaching Assistants but are preparing to teach their own classes for the first time. I didn't do the workshop this year (I created it and taught it the two previous years), but had to find my materials for the Professor who was taking it over. The department used to have a semester-long course on teaching, but it had fallen by the wayside. Now, there's a one-day workshop.

I've taught at six schools in the past 7 years. Other than that one year--when I was an Assistant Professor who had to go through orientation, where I met all those drinking teachers--I've never had the kinds of opportunities to engage in that "teaching talk." My best friend here in Boston and I used to have those conversations quite a bit. But since the Department moved me from our shared office to one in a hallway all by myself, we don't see each other as often, and rarely get to spend that kind of time talking about our teaching.

Now, one thing going on here is simply being adjunct. As I've described it to my students when they asked why I wasn't sure if I'd be back the next year, we adjuncts are nothing more than "temps." We have the same lack of job security and, generally, non-benefit status. We're easily exploitable labor. And, we're evidence of how little value teaching has. Regular faculty can get time-off for research; then we temps get hired. We may not contribute much in terms of building up departments, but to managers concerned with the fiscal bottom line, we're a bargain. Some of us are pretty good, too.

My best friend here in the city teaches with me. We used to share an office, but because of scheduling issues, I got moved to another office; I'm now the only person in an entire basement wing of the building. We don't get to talk much about teaching, like we used to, because we just don't see each other as often. I admit that my friend and I are somewhat exceptional in being among the best instructors in the department. (I've got the evals to back it up.) But, there's often very little opportunity for adjunct people to work on improving our teaching skills. I'm starting my sixth and final year at this school. Several of the places I've taught, including, this one, have any number of programs put in place to assist faculty in improving their teaching. Often, adjunct aren't even made aware of such opportunities, and even if we were, we wouldn't be eligible for them. More of the people teaching students aren't provided opportunities to improve their skills. We're teaching more and more of the classes, and the primary concern often isn't our teaching ability, but the cost of our labor.

I'm not complaining too hard here. Adjunct positions have allowed me to teach at a wide variety of schools, to gain incredible experience, and--because I love teaching--to work on my own skills (albeit on my own). It's frustrating, though, to have very strong skills in an area that is so devalued.

Teaching is a wonderful profession.

I really, really like my students. It's an amazing experience to every year watch a new group of young people discover new things, about themselves and the world around them. It's a little overwhelming, sometimes, to be a part of that process. And, it's cute as hell when you can see the "EUREKA!" moment on their faces, as are the contorted facial expressions during exams. It's heartbreaking when they come to my office to chat about their relationship problems or being denied and apartment because of their race. It's a bit overwhelming to realize the role we often play in this young people's lives.

The classroom is my happy place. And that seems to come through to my students. I'm still amazed when I run into them on the train or at a conference or when I receive an email out of the blue. It's incredible to hear how I've touched people, even those who just sat in the back of the room being quiet.

So, here's to teachers and to teaching. Here's to the people that moved the folks reading this. Here's to my HS science teacher, who was actually able to interest me; here's to my undergrad Voice Instructor, who let me break down crying when I was struggling with coming out of the closet; here's to my MA and PhD advisors, who taught me about being actively engaged scholars; and here's to the folks I TA'd for in my PhD program, who taught me it's ok to be me when teaching. Here's to the folks toiling away, doing good work, inspiring and instructing.

Here's to teachers. Who are the teachers for you, and how did they inspire you?

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It's frustrating, though, to have very strong skills in an area that is so devalued.
I think teachers should be up there with corporate sharks and merchant bankers in terms of pay. Why do people say 'you can't put a price on a good education' and then pay the educators a pittance? This is what happens here in Australia, and seems to occur in most places.

Who were my best teachers? I honestly can't answer. School for me was a struggle to do (to much emotional shit to ever achieve much) what others required, and yes there were good moments, and good mentors, but I generally don't think about my childhood so I can't honestly remember much. I guess Justin Staunton tried his guts out to educate me about Maths. Sadly, I didn't take the opportunity to learn what I could have and am still struggling with math everytime I look at Quantuum theory..

By Brian English (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I should point out that I'm not trying to say that had I studied I would've understood Quantum theory. Only that I can't understand any of it today, and perhaps if I'd studied, I'd understand why I don't understand it. This is not a bad reflection on any teacher, just my capacity to do maths. :)

By Brian English (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

To the longhaired hippie girl in white fluffy skirts that was my English teacher in grade 5,that on her first day in our class transformed me into a horny drooling stuttering fool....

I went to a community college not because I wasn't good enough for a regular university according to the state. Not because I wasn't smart (I'm in the top thousandth in intelligence and general aptitude) but because I have and probably always will have problems with brute-force memorization and thus foreign language study always kicks my butt so the legislature believes my weakness in one area should deny me the opportunity to really shine in the areas that I am strong in. I'm bitter about that but it did give me the opportunity to meet some great professors. It always amazed me how many of the instructors teaching had voluntarily left major university to teach at a community college mostly because they enjoyed the act of doing the actual teaching more than the research, papers, and department politics that came with having a more admired position. I had a few horrible professors and adjuncts as well but overall I was impressed that the staff for the most part actually cared about teaching.

I think teachers should be up there with corporate sharks and merchant bankers in terms of pay.

It's almost as though education isn't taken seriously. Obama and company should improve and fund NCLB.

By Grammar RWA (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

The teacher that inspires me most is my niece. She is in her fifth year of teaching now, having started with 1st graders, moving to 2nd graders, and now teaching 4th graders. She makes $24,000 a year yet buys many of the supplies for her class. This young woman LOVES teaching. She loves her students and really gives her all to get them engaged in learning. I am so impressed when she casually tells me about her day and I realize how patient she is with these kids. I'm pretty sure they'd have to lock me up after just one week with 25 grade school children.

By hubris hurts (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

My favorite teacher ever was my high school Anatomy and Physiology teacher. She stood just under five foot high, and was an ex-nun. Very sweet. Very smart. Absolute slave driver. She used to stand at the front of the class, eyes level with the taller seated students, wringing her hands and saying "I love you all, really I do -- but you are FAILING!".

She absolutely loved the material. When the major dissection of the term came up, most of the kids did fetal pigs, but my partner and I did a cat (which was a little rough on me -- I am a huge cat lover). Further, the cat turned out to be pregnant, and the teacher practically exploded with excitement. She helped us tease apart the uterine membranes, showing how each tiny fetus was connected, talking and asking Socratic questions the whole time. It was an intense experience, and her excitement was absolutely contagious.

Her class was sufficiently rigorous that when I went to a nursing school eight years later, the A&P was positively boring. I actually skipped the majority of the lectures and just showed up for exams and mandatory labs. I got an A, mostly from information remembered from my sophomore year of high school.

By TheBrutalGourmet (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Two great teachers: my fourth-grade science teacher, Mimi Baker, who was (literally) a rocket scientist. In her class, we covered Mendelian genetics, cellular respiration, photosynthesis, newton's laws, evolution, Kepler's laws, basic optics and electricity, and I'm sure I've forgotten a few more. We got so far in that class that I didn't see anything new in a science class again until the 10th grade.

My other great teacher was Mike Hatcher, who taught drafting and architecture in my high school. The man had more energy than any other teacher I ever met. His students usually took at least the top six places in the state-wide design competitions. Quite a few of them went into the field professionally. If it hadn't been for computers, I might have been one of them. I'm still fascinated by examples of great building design.

If I ever get rich enough to endow any academic chairs, I'll name them for the teachers who inspired me. There should be a Michael Hatcher professor of architecture somewhere in this country.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

No teachers ever inspired me. I don't think many people become teachers because they actually know a lot to teach. I have friends who became teachers and they are some of the nicest, but stupidest people you'll ever meet. No offence intended.

By dreamstretch (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

No offence intended.

of course it wasn't.

By MAJeff, OM (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

In elementary school, I had never really been challenged to write anything. I was a gifted student who was kind of "phoning it in", making good grades without bothering to think about what I was doing. Then I hit eighth grade English lit class, and a teacher who loved to ask us to write on demand in class, and I had never handed in a thing that I wasn't sure was perfect, or nearly. I seized up like sugar in the oil pan. I couldn't... just couldn't get a word down on the paper. I handed in blank sheets with my name on the top. The teacher, who used to laugh because I would raid his bookcase for good books that weren't in the pathetic school library and then read them openly during class, used to go to teacher conferences and beg for advice on how to deal with a gifted bookworm locked down tight by some nameless fear of writing.

I was quite willing to stay after class, stay after school, to work with him. He must have tried everything he could think of. I would cry from frustration and disappointment with myself. This went on for weeks. I got worse; I could not even do homework. If I did manage to wrench out a page of text, I threw it away before I got to class. We worked in the library, one-on-one, trying to get down one page, one paragraph... one sentence at a time. I felt like something defective.

Finally... I don't know what happened, but finally I managed to understand that I was not a bad kid and my teacher would not be angry if I wrote something for him that wasn't perfect. He got across to me that he was so confident of my verbal ability that he was sure anything I wrote would be more than acceptable. He turned his back and said, "I am not looking. I won't read your writing at all. Write a sentence, and when you are done, crumple the paper up and put it in your pocket." That, I could do. We worked back up to paragraphs... pages... until I had the confidence to write on demand, and then finally the confidence to take the crumpled paper out and show it to him.

Writing became easy. I found it difficult to cut high school term papers down to the maximum twenty pages. In my freshman year of college, as a music major, I was considered so good I was allowed to become a tutor for the English department for my work-study. I took on proofreading jobs and office presentation work. Now much of my job involves writing user documentation for the software I support.

I have that one frustrated, determined teacher to thank for practically my whole life after the eighth grade.

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Sorry, that came out sounding far ruder than I intended.

By dreamstretch (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

It's almost as though education isn't taken seriously. Obama and company should improve and fund NCLB.

I'd rather see NCLB jettisoned entirely, and something new take its place. As it stands, the purpose of NCLB is to demolish public schooling. I don't think anything can be salvaged from such an evil program.

My point is that when it comes to teaching young kids most people become teachers because they like children and not because they're knowledgeable.

By dreamstretch (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Brutal Gourmet, do you crack bones and flay creatures alive to get to a finished dish? Anyway, your ID made me laugh out loud. I think of all the dainty gourmets that I know, and your ID presents a nice foil to that experience.

MA Jeff writes: ...to work on my own skills (albeit on my own).
_____

Self-mentoring for various disciplines is coming into its own stride recently. You can further it along, with all that spare time in which you are drowning (teehee) and start a blog guide to show how to encourage self-mentoring of teachers.

This post vividly brought home a memory of myself at ten years old, tutoring a 60 yr old non-native speaker of English (Hungarian immigrant I believe) basic Math. When he fell asleep during the lesson on fractions, I picked up a ruler and rapped his knuckles which resulted in him not only waking up, but saying to my mother that of all of her five children (we were all tutoring this chappie some kind of lesson, from history to science, everything but Religion happily, and getting paid for it), I was the best teacher. At that moment, I realized the guy was loony (I was the best teacher aside for that awful infraction committed during the fractions session) and refused to teach him further.

The only people nowadays I am interested in teaching are folks that want to learn what I am willing to teach. In addition, these students need to show the ability to see that they are not really student but just self-teachers using my knowledge as a tool to further their own education. And that they must be willing to use themselves as tools for others in the future.

I would probably say an English teacher, in Year 10. He was one of the few teachers who made an effort to integrate different subject areas in the class - science, maths, history.
This year I'm taking a break after ten years of teaching, to write my M.Ed on paranormal and pseduoscientific beliefs, after doing a similar integration of skepticism and science in my High School English classes and presenting at Dragon*con with other, similar inspired teachers and skeptics. I sometimes wonder if he ever thought that teaching Ender's Game and Asimov short stories would end up with his students following in his footsteps!

Yes, b/c there's a nice way to call your friends and an entire profession stupid.

Logicel #15

"Brutal Gourmet, do you crack bones and flay creatures alive to get to a finished dish? Anyway, your ID made me laugh out loud. I think of all the dainty gourmets that I know, and your ID presents a nice foil to that experience."

I'm sorry - I know that this is entirely off the subject, but I would love to know how everyone here came up with his or her ID. So many of them are intriguing.

By hubris hurts (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I always liked teaching while an undergrad and while in grad school so when I got my Master's I decided to pursue teaching. I spent a year as adjunct faculty while at the same time substitute teaching for high schools and middle schools, and serving as an instructor for a program that took middle school students down to the coast for some marine biology experience. And i did these things all at the same time!

It was actually a lot of fun, but I could just barely afford to pay rent and get groceries with the pay from these three jobs. So I know precisely what you mean. In my area many adjunct faculty and even substitute K-12 teachers have Master's and PhD and scads of experience in other professions. So the region benefits from this pool of highly qualified individuals and the institutions can afford to just exploit us.

However, griping aside, those jobs were a lot more fun and rewarding than the better paid job I have now as an environmental scientist with the state, and I wouldn't trade the experiences for anything.

Logicel: What the hell is it with Hungarians and those goddamn ruler assaults? My dad, a Hungarian immigrant, used to do the ruler thing when the three of us kids acted up while we were doing our homework at the dinner table. I had an excellent, noteworthy Hungarian piano teacher who used to stand behind me while I was playing my lesson on the big grand at the conservatory, and bash me on the head with a ruler for playing a passage wrong. One of the engineers I work with, who studied in Hungary, always picks up a rule from his desk and gestured with it when he gets excited. Odds are you simply reminded the gentleman of his favorite teacher in childhood.

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

MAJeff, I agree completely. I did teach a lab or two during my graduate program for a Masters degree, but my primary experience with teaching has been with martial arts. It is tremendously satisfying to see students learn new things and grow beyond where even they thought they could. I can't count how many times a new student would approach a technique or exercise and say that they would never be able to do that, and yet sure enough some time later, have accomplished it!

It is tremendously satisfying to see students learn new things and grow beyond where even they thought they could.

One of my favorite examples of this was teaching at my first college. One of my students was a woman in her fifties, who was in a classroom for the first time since high school. The first couple class periods, I could see her wanting to shrink back into her chair. The experience was obviously intimidating. By the end of the term, though, she'd (re)discovered something. It was so gratifying to see her develop a confidence in her abilities, to experience anew the joy of learning. To watch someone develop a new sense of self like that is so incredible.

By MAJeff, OM (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

MAJeff, you sound like a great teacher. So here's to you, too.

I was teaching a high school level modular technology classroom. I made a crack about O-rings to the kids working on model rockets. They didn't get it. I asked the class what year they were born. They were all too young to have heard of the Challenger explosion.

I was teaching a high school level modular technology classroom. I made a crack about O-rings to the kids working on model rockets. They didn't get it. I asked the class what year they were born. They were all too young to have heard of the Challenger explosion.

I've had a couple of those. I think I've mentioned the "You mean there hasn't always been AIDS?" comment a student made before. But the one that made me feel old was when no one knew who the Swedish Chef was...and when someone thought Fred Durst, and not Marvin Gaye, had performed "What's Going On?" (That one was more shockingly offensive than age-based.)

By MAJeff, OM (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

The greatest teacher I ever had was named Otto Emmelhainz and he would be considered by most "educational" departments to be horrible. Most everyone who had him loved him (those few who didn't were usually too lazy to try). He was just the right amount of cranky, crazy, fun and challenging. He taught English and would come up with the most creative ways to insult your intelligence. He was a genius of reverse psychology. I went to a high school where I literally didn't need to open one book to get straight A's... except in Otto's class. We wanted to prove to him we were as smart as he was. He would ask some of the most inane and stupid questions on our pop quizzes (e.g.: What is the typo on page 124?). We drilled each other about everything we were assigned to read. Each one of us would come up with a list of questions we were sure Otto would ask and quiz each other. Nothing was off limits, everything had to be known and understood. He challenged us on everything. Even the pronunciation of my last name was a challenge. He deliberately mispronounced it to a more common pronunciation (commonly misconstrued to be the proper "German" pronunciation) until I developed the backbone to challenge him and say "No, the proper German pronunciation is _______, now say the name the way my dad elected to have it pronounced when he emigrated or don't use my last name." He used the correct pronunciation ever after. He taught English as an almost scientific process and most of the children he taught (A LOT - he taught about three generations of children, I was one of the last) are some of the best writers and essayists I have ever met. He was supposed to teach English but he really taught critical thinking. I miss Otto and I really wish that everyone (especially my own children) could have a teacher as fantastic as he was.

So often we realise how great a teacher was many years after leaving their class and it is rare that we get the opportunity to thank them. So, Mr Vokes of South Street Junior School in Bristol, England, you showed me that science and maths was fascinating and fun, you encouraged me to ask questions and to think for myself. You taught me that there are no absolute limitations, just obstacles to be overcome. From the small girl who wanted to play football and learn calculus, thank you.

By Pat Silver (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Thanks to everyone who thanked a teacher. It's a tough profession, and none of us goes into it for financial rewards. As a retired teacher (33 years in science with 12 year olds) one of my top rewards is to see former students as successful, confident, adults. In our small community in upstate New York, I see many of them.

To be a teacher, you have to find out if you like teaching, and also become very knowledgeable in your field. No matter what age level you teach.

MAJeff, please find my e-mail in the authentication line and drop me a note. If you are interested, I'll send you an article about teaching evolution to middle level students, now expanded and updated, that I wrote for NCSE Reports in 05.

Actually, Vince, I'm guessing there might be more than a few people here interested in such a paper.

Is it possible to find it online anywhere?

By MAJeff, OM (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Great post Jeff! Well, I had a number of teachers really that touched my life in different ways. The one that really stands out for me the most though is my MSc supervisor. He was just starting out his lab when I started with him, so I feel that we learned alot of things together because of that. He was, and still is, very motivating. He knew when to tell me that I could do better, and really helped to instill the confidence in myself that I can do well at this science thing. He was great for helping me to realize what my true talents were, and also where I need to improve and how to do that. He's just a great guy, and instilled in me a deeper motivation to continue in in science.

MaJeff,

As the father of a very bright kid with Asperger's currently enrolled in public school I can't say how much I appreciate the dedication of the teachers that have gone out of their way to help him.
So I thank you for your choice to be a teacher. I can think of no higher calling!

While the subject of this article is energy conservation: http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/worklife/08/12/shorter.workweek/index.ht… and I most certainly see many reasons to support a four day work week for all, this quote really brought reallity home to me.

Brevard Community College used $267,000 in energy savings to add 10 new full-time faculty positions.

WTF? How can anyone be expected to survive on $26,700.00 in this day and age let alone do a really good job? My company can't even get a good receptionist for that amount.

Unless we as a society give teachers their due and value them accordingly we will continue to reap the consequences.

By Fernando Magyar (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Since you've again reminded me of Dr. Russell, my wonderful prep-school history teacher (I actually googled him after reading your post yesterday, but found nothing - I suspect he may be deceased), and also of what I love about teaching, I'll spare you all rants on the following otherwise-relevant topics:

- abysmal adjunct pay
- my own experiences as an adjunct
- the casualization of academic labor in the US
- the associated weakening of faculty governance
- the importance of academic unions, and the need for GAs/TAs, adjuncts, and full-time faculty to join forces
- the NLRB

Here's to you, Dr. Russell!

Actually, Vince, I'm guessing there might be more than a few people here interested in such a paper.

Is it possible to find it online anywhere?

Emphatically seconded!

OK, well I can't resist this:

WTF? How can anyone be expected to survive on $26,700.00 in this day and age let alone do a really good job? My company can't even get a good receptionist for that amount.

I taught as an adjunct professor at four different colleges/universities in one of the most expensive cities in the world, often in difficult conditions, and never made more than $2500 with no benefits. That's per course, of 25-30 students. You can imagine how many classes an adjunct would have to teach at that rate to make ends meet. [/mini-rant]

Where would any of us be without teachers?
(and don't say voting republican!)
It's not something I could do, but I appreciate those who can.

Here's my rundown of notably influential teachers:

My elementary school art teacher, who was great at encouraging creativity and expression while still being helpfully critical.

My fifth grade english teacher, who also was great at encouraging creativity and expression. She was also really joyful and enthusiastic all the time, and it was contagious.

My eighth grade english teacher, who didn't make us all stick to the same reading list. We were able to read and write about whatever literature interested us, and at the time that was a novel concept to me. I was able to read and write about "1984" years before it was required reading in high school, and it was at that time I went through all of Douglas Adams' books. Up until that point I had been largely bored with the required reading in school.

My tenth grade english teacher, for being very liberal about the literature we chose to read and write about. Topics including sexuality and violence, while not encouraged, were at least tolerated. I was able to swear in fictional dialog without repercussions. It was empowering to feel no restraints on expression.

My eleventh grade/AP english teacher, for being so interesting and unconventional. He encouraged creative thought, free expression, and thorough literary analysis. He was also really amusing, and used a lot of colorful speech in class. He was also very laid back, but would give people a smackdown when they really needed it. Because his discipline was so rare, when you saw it you knew he meant business.

My twelfth grade AP American history teacher, for being so difficult. The class started with over 30 people, and only seven made it to the end to take the AP exam. Some saw this as a failure on his part, but I think he was being appropriately tough on people to weed out the slackers. The depth of the material and difficulty of the exams made me work hard, and it paid off not only on the exam, but later in college.

One of my college english profs, for being a royal bitch to me. It made me work a lot harder to earn some scholarly respect.

One of my college geology profs, for being a gung-ho, take-no-prisoners, ass-kicking, no-whining field geologist. He taught me a real "get out there and get it done" attitude, and made me realize I love field work.

My other college geology prof, for asking difficult questions in class, in the lab, and in the field. She makes people prove what they know on the fly, think through things they don't, and serves up a little humility to those who come up blank.

One of my college biology profs, for being infectiously enthusiastic about plants and microbiology. She is perhaps the single greatest teacher I've had when it comes to making complicated things seem obvious.

Wow I didn't realize there were so many. I'm sure there'll be more in the future as well.

A bunch of my teachers in high school actually wound up helping to write (or writing) the provincial curricula for their subjects when the curricula came up for revision. I think the one I liked most was Ken Fleet, the music teacher. I'm no longer a vocalist (and I think my lungs are too destroyed these days to go back to it), but I got enough music theory in his course that I can mostly keep up with discussions on music theory between professional musicians with math degrees and people with undergraduate music degrees. My other good subject was English, and the best English teacher I ever had (there weren't that many) returned an assignment to me with the inscription, "100% This is the first one of these I've ever given -- and it hurt."

My best teaching moment (on the other side of the desk, as it were) was when I was teaching business writing to a bunch of senior community college students. I was explaining the difference between denotation and connotation. I was in front of the class wearing a sweater, a pair of black dress-casual pants, and my Doc Martens shoes. I said, "Okay. Denotation. Clothes. I'm dressed, right?" *nods all round* "Now, connotation is the meaning attached to something like clothes, what my outfit says. I'm still dressed, but I look like Professor Interrobang. This outfit says, 'Hi, I'm Professor Interrobang, and this is a normal day.'" Then I took off my sweater to show the black logo t-shirt I was wearing the other day. Giggles from the class. I said, "I've only changed one thing. Now what does my outfit say?" A student in the back very tentatively put up his hand and said, "I...love...rock and roll...?" I was delighted.

By Interrobang (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

This was a great post, MaJeff.

For myself I'd have to say that none of my teachers stood out for me except my Dad - he was the Drama and English teacher at the secondary school I attended when we still lived in England, and one year I was in his Drama class. What I mostly remember, apart from the colossal pain of everyone assuming that I must know the answers to all of their Drama related questions since I was the teacher's kid, was how easily he could get (and can still get)the 'problem' kids to work their butts off. This was true even with the 'boring bits' or the 'embarrassing bits'. It didn't seem to matter what the kids' attitudes were to any aspects of the work when they walked in. Within a short time they were all trying and achieving.

Aside from that I will say that, trite as this may sound, the greatest teachers I ever had were Richard Dawkins and Steven Jay Gould, despite never having been lucky enough to have met either of them. Their books showed me what academic passion looked like and I decided that I wanted some. As a result, I became a science teacher and, eventually, a science communicator who travels from school to school working with students and teachers, delivering science shows, science and critical thinking programs and professional development for teachers - all in an attempt to communicate some of that passion.

That passion for the meat of science - the process and the thought patterns - is actually what took me out of teaching in a regular classroom setting. I find the current South Australian science curriculum to be exceedingly dull and lacking in challenges. Despite the reasonable sounding language and high ideals of the "South Australian Curriculum Standards and Accountability Framework", teachers were never given the time to develop any new materials to match it and too many seem to have devolved into teaching by tick-box (has this lesson achieved objective 23? Yes - right, let's move on and never touch it again...).

There are many people in SA bemoaning the 'falling standards' of our teachers and, to some extent, I can see their point. While there are many excellent, hardworking, passionate and knowledgeable teachers out there that these doomsayers ignore, it seems that for every one I come across I find at least one other who either should have retired years ago or should have looked into the excellent advancement prospects at McDonalds. I have recently been one of the tutors for a group of Primary Teaching students at a local university and it was something of an eye-opening experience. Not one had any good grounding in any field (there are several I personally wouldn't trust to teach my kids to count, let alone read, write and think...), and many of them only wanted to get into teaching because a) you didn't need a good university entrance score to get in (!!), b) they liked kids and c) the wage was reasonable (from the point of view of a starving student) and there were regular holidays. I'd say these folks are in for one hell of a shock.

Until the government takes teachers seriously and starts to pay them well, these students represent the general quality of people who will be applying for the teaching jobs, meaning that our next generation of teachers will have been predominantly taught by people I would consider to be generally incompetent. Australia referring to itself as 'the clever country' is in danger of becoming somewhat ironic.

(oops - I've just noticed how long this has gone - sorry for the screed, folks)

I've blogged elsewhere about my best teachers, but the two who made the most difference to me were the junior high math teacher I had for two years and the AP physics teacher from high school.

My math teacher would give me the assignments ahead of time and always left time at the end of lectures for individual questions at his desk, which were usually my questions about whatever I couldn't puzzle out working ahead on my own. Not once did he say, "I'm going to cover that later."

My physics teacher solved problems and did demos and never got personal but never rested on his dignity either. He worked terribly hard to make a space in which we could find physics as cool as he did. There are a number of his students who, twenty years later, still call ourselves "Bauer's kids."

MAJeff, great post. I'm so curious to know where you teach... I always wonder if it's my old school in northern CA. I think, in fact, my best instructors were there.

I spent a year and a half at Santa Rosa Junior College
I had Craig (Beaumont) Foster for English as a 25 year old re-entry student. Amazing. He really challenged me to think about what I was writing, and was the first person to get me to really understand parts of speech and sentence diagraming. I'd always been a good writer, but Craig helped me understand why, and how to be better.

I had Scott Fuller for Intro Soc. Inspiring guy. I got a BA in Soc, am trying to get my MA in Soc finished, and am an adjunct Soc instructor in MI currently. The man used regular mass release books and movies to illustrate sociological concepts, and shamelessly wore an Earth First t-shirt every day of the semester. He must have owned a dozen of the things in various colors and logo styles. He showed me ways to understand and organize everything that my brain had been playing with on its own for a decade or more. Wonderful man.

And then the adjunct thing...
I make 2900. per class of 50. I have to teach 4 classes a semester in order to keep head above water. My husband and I have both been doing this for several years now, which is not helping to get the MA finished. Time constraints from hell. He just got bumped up to visiting professor this year, so it should get better. We get benefits, and he gets paid all year!!! That's the other thing about adjuncting... teaching all year, every session, and having no paycheck the last of August, and no paycheck in the middle of January. All while teaching more than any tenured or tenure track faculty member.

Add this teaching load (oh yeah. And Hubby is in a PhD program. Stats this semester. Yay) to two teens, one quite high-maintenance, and a toddler grandson (child of the high-maintenance daughter, aged 18) that we are raising. This was NOT on my list of things to do in my 40s as I struggle to finish my graduate work in time to have some career years! *sigh*

Man, I really want to be able to get the damn degree done! I already had to leave school once, 10 weeks shy of completing an MA. This was over a decade ago. Funding got cut, had to get a real job. I tried to do everything, but something had to give, and it wasn't going to be the landlord or the kids. Grad school could wait. Then daughter got pregnant. Grrrrrrrrr.......

*will not let barriers win. will not let barriers win. will not let barriers win.*

OT: that's where my 'gramomster' handle comes from. And I live in GR, MI. So, I'm a Grand Rapids Gramma and Mom who's kind of 'monster-y'. Like muppet-ish monster-y. According to the kids. I think it's the hair... and the growling... lol

I would love to have a group of people like you had. I never talk about teaching with anybody but my husband. I will say, however, that the university where I teach holds Adjunct Academy where the adjuncts are given the opportunity to come together to discuss classroom strategies, learn about current learning theory, and share experiences. Too bad they're often on evenings that I have class or on Saturdays. Really hard to ask Hubby to give up statistics and dissertation time (and remember the 4-class teaching load) to watch the Grandboy for 6 hours while I go schmooze.

*will not let barriers win. will not let barriers win. will not let barriers win.*

And the light at the end of the tunnel was so BRIGHT 3 years ago...

By gramomster (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I'd have to say my mom, first of all. She homeschooled my sister and me practically all the way through for both of us (from second grade on for me, all the way for my younger sister) and made the units interesting and memorable. While there were definitely things she should've done better (like better paper-writing skills going into college), she was making it up as she went along, and that takes guts.

Then my English 101 teacher, Mrs. Lamb. She had us do three-page in-class writing assignments every second week, which improved our quick writing skills, and had us do worksheets on any grammar problems we had trouble with. I now know how to use who and whom! (And I don't have comma problems anymore, either.)

Next my undergrad history professor, Dr. Woods. She was dry and acerbic and gave you massive amounts of information in a single lecture, but she always had time to help you out if you needed it. She expected a lot out of you, which is why a number of her students hated her, but she really stretched your limits and encouraged you to do better. She encouraged me to go on to grad school in history and graded my papers accordingly, so I'd be ready for the more advanced requirements.

Finally (so far!), my grad mentor this past year, Dr. Winter. He's incredibly passionate about medieval history and he'd give you as much help as you needed to get through his course. He also has a tendency to say really hilarious things in class (like calling a king's nobles and knights his medieval homies, yo). One of the things that's amazing about him is that in his 400/500 level classes there were no tests - just research paper-related assignments. Yet every single person in his classes took pages and pages of notes, simply because he made it so interesting and relevant. He's not with us anymore, he took a position in his native Canada (we're south of the border), but he really inspired so many of us.

I've learned of a blog of a former evangelical Christian (who now describes himself as an atheist/Catholic/Buddhist) who is still teaching at an evangelical school. He says his blog, http://salvadore-incognito.blogspot.com, will chronicle his experience of being a "non-theist stranger in a strange Christian land." I wonder what THAT will be like.

By Greg Peterson (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I'd rather see NCLB jettisoned entirely, and something new take its place.

I'm using a very inclusive definition of "improve."

By Grammar RWA (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I'd also have to say my mum. She didn't homeschool me or anything but she is an English and Drama teacher, and a damned good one at that! She went back to university when I was younger and earned an MA in English Language and Teaching. She was the one that gave me the drive to do postgrad studies. She also went through all my English coursework ruthlessly with a damn electronic pencil. Just seeing those things reminds me of her!

Other than her, the other teachers that stand out for me was Miss P. in second grade, Miss Cyr-Harris in fourth grade and Mr. Evershed, my English teacher from Year 8/9/10. You always remember the good ones don't you?

If I fail on the path to becoming a science writer then I will definitely become a science teacher.

My most inspiring teacher was my father, a middle school science teacher in northern Illinois, although I never officially took a class with him. However, while I was in grade school I was allowed to attend a summer school program he taught for middle school students who otherwise wouldn't advance to the next grade. The program was supposed to cover all general areas of study and my Dad integrated everything - with plenty of field trips! A bus trip across the state to Galena to see Pres. Grant's home was an opportunity to teach political history, the civil war, architecture, geology of the Mississippi River bluffs, etc. Another trip to central Illinois to visit coal mines covered technology, history, economics, environmental issues, geology and paleotology when he split open rock samples from the mine tailings to reveal fern leaf fossils. Forty years later and I'm still trying to learn as much as I can about as many different subjects as possible.

Mr. Rademacher, senior humanities - he made literature come alive for me, and caused me to switch my planned course of study from chemical engineering to English. Of course, I made that decision after I'd already sent out half my applications, and I found it a challenge to discover a suitable course to follow at such institutions as the Colorado School of Mines. Luckily, I was recruited by a little Swedish liberal arts college late in the year.

MAJeff - I'm a Minneapolis local. What bars were hassling you? It's always good to know what to avoid...

I had two awesome teachers and several more remarkable ones.

Mr. Rogers in Grade 4 motivated my love for reading and interest in science when he blew a breaker trying to demonstrate the three colors that make white light. He was my first encounter with positive motivation. After school awards we had class awards where every student was recognized for an academic accomplishment.

Mr. G. Sieben was my science teacher from grade 6 to 10 (he moved up to high school when we did) All of his interesting facts were something we could use to "impress our mail man" I heard he went later returned to university to teach teachers.

Now that I give training (first aid and safety) I appreciate even more how difficult it is to be an effective teacher.

Teachers - one of my favourite topics. My family is full of them, with a cousin, an aunt, brother-in-law and mother-in-law (retired) all in the profession. I might have been one too, but just couldn't get into a Ph.D program.
They make a few more bucks here in Canada than in the States but it still isn't enough.
It's completely bizarre to me that we entrust the care and education of our kids to teachers without giving them the tools to make their jobs easier and then complain about the results.
I owe tremendous thanks to my "old school" grade eight teacher Mrs. Brown (sadly, she is longer with us)because she taught me the rudiments of grammar (any errors are strictly my fault).
Throughout high school and university I encountered educators who inspired my interest in their fields and helped me get through the ones I found challenging (high school algebra - arghh!).
The only thing I don't like about teachers is that my brother-in-law is at home now playing World of Warcraft and I'm at work!

I've had quite a few good teachers over the years. The elementary school teacher who discovered I was nearsighted, and had me sit up front until I got glasses. My 8th grade science teacher who helped turn me on to science. My high school chemistry teacher who realized I was far beyond the rest of the students and had me do extra work to keep from being bored. All the math teachers who did the same. Professor Smith who turned me on to organic chemistry, which became my occupation. And author/professor Isaac Asimov, who turned me on to and kept me interested in all parts of science, and showed one can teach without a formal classroom, and education happens also outside of the classroom.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I'm a graduate student, and this fall I'm going into my third semester teaching. I think of myself as enthusiastic, and I hope that comes across to my students because enthusiasm is what made me excited to learn. I want the same experience for them. I want to show them all the really bitchin' things I learned from my great undergraduate professors. And I think I can do better, but my students have to care about learning too.

Part of the problem is bad foundations. When my class can't do things they should've learned in elementary school, I start to get as bitter and cynical as some of my colleagues. But there's not a whole lot that I can do if a student has bad foundations from previous courses. I can help them identify what they should already know, but not much outside of that unless they come visit me during my office hours.

I want to teach like my undergraduate professors. My students do no worse than students in other classes, but I think I can do better.

MAJeff #23
I had a similar experience as part of my TA work. I was teaching remedial chemistry and one of the faculty wives decide to get a nursing degree after her kids left. She took the remedial chemistry course to help bring her back up to speed. She failed my first exam, but I explained to her that reentry students often take a while to get back in the groove, and that she would do better as time went on. I just loved the expression on her face when I told her she had the best grade on the final exam, and I was going to give her an A for the course due to her steady improvement. As the commercial says, priceless!

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

@dreamstretch (#14)"No teachers ever inspired me. I don't think many people become teachers because they actually know a lot to teach. I have friends who became teachers and they are some of the nicest, but stupidest people you'll ever meet. No offence intended."

Wow. Way to try to make me, a teacher who is actually pretty intelligent, feel like crap about myself. I sure wouldn't ever want to be your "friend" who teaches. Sounds like you have some self-esteem issues where you have to tear other people down to feel better about yourself. Advice: think a little harder before you speak next time.

As a music major, I have to say my other favorite teacher is Frederic Chopin, for some of the same sorts of reasons people give for naming Asimov, Gould, and Dawkins. Even after so much time has passed, the aristocratic, tireless teacher-personality still shines through in the music and drives the student forward. Everything is challenging yet clear. All tasks, if tackled with determination, are possible and rewarded. Everything a piano student needs to know is covered in the body of work somewhere.

Like my wonderful eighth-grade English teacher who took time to set me on my feet when I was too scared to write in his class, Chopin took time to conquer the same sort of fear in his pupils. One of them quoted him later as saying to her in a lesson, Forget you're being listened to, and always listen to yourself. I see that timidity and lack of self-confidence form a kind of armour around you, but through this armour I perceive something else that you don't always dare to express, and so you deprive us all. When you're at the piano, I give you full authority to do whatever you want; follow freely the ideal you've set for yourself and which you must feel within you; be bold and confident in your own powers and strength, and whatever you say will always be good.

That's always been a lesson I needed, and Chopin has always been a refuge.

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

klange @54:

Did you think he meant you? Did you fail to inspire him when he was your student? Are you nice but stupid? What could have caused you to take offense when he said he intended none?

My dad used to say, "the struck bell rings." Do you have self-esteem issues? Should I want you for a teacher?

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

When I was in college, I knew several teachers (or people who were training to be such), and I have to say that they fit dreamstretch's description to a tee. So at that time, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with him.

However, at that time I'd been so inspired by my elementary school, junior high, high school, and college teachers that it would have been an unfair generalization. I don't know how they got into teaching at those levels. It's just that the teaching majors I knew weren't generally the brightest people.

Those teaching majors I met when I was in graduate school, though (they were undergrads), were---and are---tremendously bright people, some of whom really love the kids, and some of whom really love the subjects.

I don't know what changed. Perhaps the people at my grad. school were more capable in general, or I hung out with a different crowd, or the small sample-sizes just mean that I don't have enough examples to validly generalize from. However, my opinion of teaching majors changed a lot, and for the better.

I've always meant to contact as many of my inspiring teachers as possible, and I think MAJeff's post will help me to do that. Thanks, MAJeff, and to all those who've responded! I have no doubt that my teachers will thank you, too.

I had the same reaction as klange, so I'll jump in to address speedwell's points.

Did you think he meant you?

Given the breadth of the brush he painted with, I'd say yes, it was meant as a sideswipe at all teachers.

What could have caused you to take offense when he said he intended none?

Two things: 1. Statements can be offensive regardless of the intention of the person who said them. Try this one:"speedwell, you're an ass. No offense meant."

2. Saying you didn't intend any offense isn't the same thing as actually meaning you didn't. It's a well-known way to try and deflect criticism by hiding behind "oh, it's just a joke", or "oh, I meant all those other people like you, but not you personally".

Carlie @58:

speedwell, you're an ass. No offense meant.

None taken, of course. But is that how you talk to your students?

OK, since you are presumably a teacher and not a reactionary adolescent (I hope), why don't you take the actual statement dreamstretch made and analyze it? What weaknesses in the current system could have made them say that? Is it possible to go through an entire childhood's worth of school and not encounter even one inspiring, motivated, effective teacher? Is it possible that there are many insipid lackwits installed in the jobs that should go to the deserving?

The IPU knows, the English teacher who saved my academic and professional life was the first teacher who really bothered to take an interest in me personally, rather than just stick me in the corner with a book and dedicate his attention to the poorer students. That's a long time to go without personalized attention from teachers. I had some better teachers later, because I knew they were there and I had an idea how to seek them out.

In school, I used to ask my classmates what made them choose their majors. The math majors talked about fractals and aleph-null and higher dimensions. The English majors talked about meaning and the process of writing and semantics. The philosophy majors talked about asking the right questions. The golf team leader, eighteen years old and gifted, talked about winning money from CEOs and Congressmen who thought he was somebody's kid just fooling around (lol). The future teachers... eh, they "luuuuved children." I would ask them why they didn't just become parents (or pedophiles); what made them choose the classroom. They would look at me like morons and get upset, but I never got a clear answer out of them.

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Great topic. Not all teachers are the best people but, among them, lots of the best people can be found. My seven grade science teacher genuinely wanted to help the students, to see them succeed. As I look back it is plain to see what an amazing lady she was. Another was my shop math teacher, he made math an absolute joy to learn. Maybe the only teacher that I wished would spend less time telling jokes. Not because the jokes weren't very funny but, because the content of the lectures was so well presented - he too was not given the respect from the institution that he deserved.

In many ways our society has put at the top things that don't belong there. Sports stars? Movie stars? Corporate execs? Political stars? The ability to deceive most convincingly is a valued trait of those that practice religion, they think that is good? These things seem to have a common occurrence in civilizations that are close to failure or decline. It isn't that they exist that is the problem, it is that they are elevated to such importance.

Historically, do societies ever wake up before melt down?

The best teacher I ever had was a young student teacher who joined our high school English class. At the time, I was a straight-A student, used to being fawned over by my teachers. I remember being shocked the first time this student teacher graded an essay of mine. He gave me a C and wrote, "Your arguments are trite and superficial. You can do better than this." I felt like I'd been smacked in the head. No teacher had ever said that to me before! Of course he was right; I eventually realized how much I'd been coasting on my reputation, and once I was forced to maintain these higher standards, I felt like I started making huge gains in my learning.

He was only with us for a couple of months, and I never saw him again after that semester. I don't even remember his name. Whoever you are, thank you!

The BEST teachers I ever TA-ed for, and who I model my teaching after, were a married couple who co-taught a writing intensive introductory human evolution/primate diversity course. They started the semester with 60 non major freshman who knew nothing of the topic, and ended not only with 60 people more well versed in primate evolution, but who had mastered the scientific method, independent research, and the ability to write a good scientific paper. I was amazed and have modeled my courses after it. They started by showing the students how the s.m. works, and then they re-applied it to every topic we covered - by posing a question, engaging the students to come up with hypotheses, teaching the students about the data, and then coming to a conclusion about the best hypothesis. The students wrote 4 papers (3 with drafts); on the first one we had pretty much done the whole thing in class and they were simply learning to regurgitate it in a scientific format. By the second and third ones, we were using data the class compiled, and each student did his/her own analysis. and for the last paper they had to come up with their own research question, at least 2 possible hypotheses, search the literature for the data, and come to a conclusion. and they all (save one or 2) mastered it. Freshman. So many teachers don't have faith in what their students can do, or don't want to take the time to work with them on this. But I feel like those students performed and learned more than I've seen students at higher level courses do.

@ Lemming (52) - I agree completely. As a senior in college I had my roommate ask me how to find journal articles at the library and was shocked that a) no one had taught him and b) he hadn't needed them until his last semester. So I try to make sure I teach foundations in any introductory course, so that students are ready for that when they hit upper level courses. I take the time to work on writing, study skills and basic techniques that are necessary for my discipline. Because I want other teachers to be doing the same thing for me :)

Thanks to the teachers who put themselves in harm's way. They're underpaid cops. Police have stronger unions.

By Grammar RWA (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Camutti, had the most brilliant approach to teaching, which she called "the Workshop Method". At the beginning of the year, each student had to sign a pledge to work diligently to complete a certain amount of work each day, with the proviso that, once the individual assignments were done, the rest of the day would be free time for quiet reading or other activities.

The day's individual assignments were posted on the back wall of the classroom. For math and basic reading instruction, the class was split into smaller groups, so she could pay more attention to every child in the sub-group. The students outside the particular group she was with would get their individual assignments from the postings in the back of the classroom, and, if they completed everything, the rest of the day was free, unstructured time.

Since I was always a little brainiac, I breezed through the work in half a day and spent the rest of the day reading dinosaur books or drawing. She eventually paired me up with a new kid in the school who had been terribly burned, so he missed a lot of school. I helped him with catching up to the rest of the class.

Wow, she was an amazing teacher! The amount of trust she had in us, and the amount of autonomy she gave us was remarkable. Of course, we all loved her, so everyone rose to the challenges she offered us.

Thanks for sparking a real nostalgia trip, MAJeff,OM. Kudos to PZ for handing you the keys! Now, how about another foodie post?

By Longtime Lurker (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

@Speedwell: Mocking people who enter a profession that requires them to work with children for loving children is a perplexing to me. You are undervaluing how important it is, especially for primary school teachers, to love their students and to love children. Would you want someone who does not love children to teach your child? Do you honestly think that such a qualification is only valuable to parents and pedophiles? (I think that comparing a teacher's love for children to pedophilia is pretty disgusting, by the way.)

Subject matter is important. I know many teachers who teach because they love their subjects, and they know their subjects very well. The greatest teachers love their subjects and love their students. Both qualifications are essential.

I have been so fortunate in my education to have a long list of fantastic teachers. With one notable exception, even my elementary school teachers were inspirational. My fourth grade teacher, a woman who bore every resemblance to Mrs. Frizzle except her curly wild hair was black, spent *every* recess with my best friend and I walking laps around the asphalt track, talking about everything and nothing - science more often than not. I owe an awful lot to her.

In high school, I had a few truly gifted teachers - a fantastic physics teacher, and a married pair of english teachers who managed to teach a disinterested girl a lot about literature - and even more about everything else.

The female half of that wonderful pair died last year. I had not kept in contact as I should have, I think in part because I was petrified that I'd call her to find out her husband had passed. When I got (several) calls from friends I had fallen out of touch with, I was shocked and heartbroken to hear that it was her who had fallen first. I attended the local funeral, and drove up to her hometown for the second. I keep in touch with her husband, now, and we are to the point where we can discuss her without tears - most of the time, anyway. I've had a terrible year, with many deaths in my family, but even those have not cut me as deeply as her loss.

I'm still awaiting Florida certification, but I've already gotten the ball rolling in my local county. It shouldn't be too long before I have a physics classroom of my very own. I can't ever see me measuring up in comparison to her, but it's her influence (and that of countless other saints) that makes me want to try.

Would you want someone who does not love children to teach your child?

Maybe. Depends on how great they were at communication anyway. Generally love helps.

By Grammar RWA (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Thanks for the chance to wax poetic about my Miss Betsy. I miss her terribly. Sometimes it's very, very hard being a humanist.

From a bench at Cornell:
"To those who shall sit here rejoicing
To those who shall sit here mourning
Sympathy and greeting
So have we done in our time."
- 1892 - ADW-HMW

From comments #29 and #30. MAJeff, since you asked, I have put the paper on my web site. You can connect through the link below or www.myspace.com/vscustomdrums.

That is correct, not a typo. I enjoy my retirement by keeping busy with custom drum work. In the MySpace blog section on the right, find the paper as Teaching Evolution in Middle School.

Note that the blog edition is a working draft, so I invite questions, comments, and recommendations. I will finalize the paper as I prepare to give a presentation on this topic for CNY Skeptics. Find CNY Skeptics in my Friends section.

If you are on MySpace, feel free to send me a friends request. You don't have to be a drummer!

My favorite teacher was my 1920's flapper grandmother. Everything had to be an 'art'. Conversation, writing, dancing, you name it.
My least favorite techer is the bastard grading my papers now, and returning every one three times. Grrrr! He's a fundy and a sexist. Worse he has no sense of humour at all. How he has survived at the little community college for so long I have no idea.
Thanks to everyone that remarked they enjoyed having middle-aged women in your classes, now I feel better. ;)

Klange:

Mocking people who enter a profession that requires them to work with children for loving children is a perplexing to me.

I didn't do that. I mocked them for having no better reason--no other reason, really--for choosing the teaching profession. After all, any sane and decent person "loves children." What made the education students decide to become teachers?

You are undervaluing how important it is, especially for primary school teachers, to love their students and to love children.

Nope, you are overvaluing it.

Would you want someone who does not love children to teach your child?

I don't particularly love my co-workers and sometimes I don't even like them, but I am considered a very effective and well-liked trainer in the company where I work. Imagine that.

Do you honestly think that such a qualification is only valuable to parents and pedophiles?

No, and if you think I said that, you need to polish your pince-nez and dry behind your ears, kiddo. It's called "sarcasm." Look it up.

(I think that comparing a teacher's love for children to pedophilia is pretty disgusting, by the way.)

I didn't compare them. If I had had such an object in mind, all I would have had to do is recommend you go to Google and search on the two words "teacher charged." But I don't have any such object in mind. I merely intended to point out that "love of children" is not the necessary and sufficient definition of a teacher.

Subject matter is important. I know many teachers who teach because they love their subjects, and they know their subjects very well. The greatest teachers love their subjects and love their students. Both qualifications are essential.

It's flat amazing to me how someone with your signal lack of reading comprehension skills could have come up with a cogent paragraph like that. I could not have said it better myself.

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

#70 - Vince - Ohhhh! Me, me! I'm Layne Redmond's greatest fan. My frame drumming is OK, but my finger snaps suck. The riq is my master, can't walk and play it at the same time...*red face*. I've just recently been listening to hang drums on YouTube. Huzzah for drumming!

The greatest gift a teacher can bestow upon a student is to inspire them for life. In the student's mind, this teacher will be constantly thought of as an inspirational individual who helped form the thoughts and behaviors of the student for the rest of his or her life. In retrospect, I've had a few amazing teachers who have done just that, and I'll use this thread to recount them and describe the methods they used to inspire and the life lessons gained from those experiences.

I'll start with junior high school, only because that's when my love for science really started to take shape.
Mr. Hajiaghai (sp?) was my science teacher in 7th grade, and showed me the wonders of the natural world. Even a simple frog dissection would delve into the amazing abilities, physiology, and link to the animal kingdom. It went beyond simple tasks, but incorporated a global approach to the tasks and lessons we would learn. It was also my first introduction to ecology and the importance of recycling. He left to attain his master's degree the following year but his absence did not leave a vacuum.

Mrs Markham (known later as Nathan when she got married during the school year), my 8th grade science teacher was also inspirational. She was a strongly opinionated, yet passionate African American woman. She inspired us to move beyond just the moment, and try to capture the overall experience of science. She also inspired and helped allow me to improve my science fair project, to the point of winning the regional finals and visiting Hughes Aircraft.

In High school, again staying with the science theme, my Biology and Anatomy teacher, Mr Takano, helped me to break out of the indoctrinated shell of spiritual and religious belief. It would be hard to say it happened instantaneously, and in fact, it would be many many years later, in grad school that I would realize just how thought provoking his viewpoints were. He was not ashamed of being honest, straightforward, and yet, sarcastic and cynical. In addition, it nurtured my growing love for biology, especially evolution and genetics.

In addition, Mr Bechtel, and Mr. Mallot, my History and English teachers in High school helped me to think critically and analyze situations thoroughly. Their guidance and the lack of spoon feeding made me learn to think on my feet, and to retain a healthy degree of skepticism. The materials and methods they employed helped to truly round my education and appreciate subjects that I normally would not have enjoyed.

There of course are many more instructors, both in primary and secondary education, but the ones mentioned here are those that I truly belief helped shape the person I am today.

By Helioprogenus (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

speedwell:

I in no way think that loving kids should be the only requirement for teachers. But when you ask people in college why they want to teach, their response that they "love children" doesn't mean that they're idiots who know nothing else and who have no regard for subject matter.

For example, nursing students tell me that they want to offer people who are suffering comfort. This doesn't mean that they don't appreciate the need to have medical training and knowledge.

Anyway, I find it astounding that you seem so determined to insult me by mocking my reading comprehension skills and my lack of appreciation of sarcasm. Really, we are just having a disagreement - why you have to be so rude about it I'll never understand. You seem so angry about something, and determined to take it out on anyone you can find who disagrees with you, however amicably, about anything. It's really kind of sad.

Now here is something that a teacher taught me a long time ago:

Sometimes, less, is more.

By Lessismore (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Seconded on the foodie post idea. ;)
Has anyone seen Holbach? He seems to have been gone quite awhile.

But when you ask people in college why they want to teach, their response that they "love children" doesn't mean that they're idiots who know nothing else and who have no regard for subject matter.

No, the fact that they throw an immature tantrum and can't come up with any other answer tells me that. It tells me they've been told they're "good with kids" by parents after a babysitting job, by the Sunday school superintendent when they assist in the kindergarten room, and by teachers who want to make them feel good about themselves because they joined Peer Counseling. It tells me they mostly identify with the kids and seek to be liked and approved of by kids, not that they're adult enough to be fit to be a mentor to children. It tells me they're too shallow and inarticulate to think clearly about why teaching is a calling (so to speak) and why they think they've been called.

So they love children, hooray. Like I said, most people love children. After all, if we didn't love our children, we'd be in a bad way as a species. But as we agree, they'd better damn well love something else enough to be an expert in it. Otherwise they're not qualified to teach anyone's children but their own, and questionably qualified to do that much.

As for your melodramatic handwringing about "angry" and "sad," grow up.

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

My best teacher ever was a chemistry teacher in high school.

He's the one who had an ashtray made out of molded TNT in his office (and he used it; t'was in the days when everyone smoked wherever they wanted to), who demonstrated to the class how loud it is when you hit a drop of nitroglycerine with a hammer, who built a HeNe laser pretty much from scratch, and who let me take white phosphorus, arsenic, and mercury back to my basement lab. And no, I'm not that old, that happened less than 20 years ago! Obviously, if anyone did that today, they'd end up in Gitmo, or whatever the EU equivalent of that is.

Unsurprisingly, he was the most popular chem teacher in the school, and possibly one of the most popular teachers there altogether.

I guess I have him to blame for being a chemist now (still haven't figured out whether I love or hate chemistry, but should probably decide before I move continents for the next postdoc position). Oh and really, he was a great bloke, and I can't really blame him, for the whole "I-love-science" thing didn't quite hit me until I'd done a first degree in music (which was in Boston by the way MAJeff [Massachusetts, not Lincolnshire]), felt bored with the arts, and reverted to being a nerd... :-)

I've got a couple of really influential teachers in my life.

First, Linda Donnelly, my elementary school teacher for four years in a row and a friend of my mother's. She put up with a smart, easily frustrated kid and really got me interested in a ton of different subjects. I'd later end up babysitting her son, and they're still family friends of ours.

Second, Mr. Kinsler, the high school English teacher who helped me figure out that I really enjoyed writing.

Third, Ran Libeskind-Hadas, my college advisor and the "nicest slave-driver in the world" - I'd always feel like a terrible person if I didn't get work done for his classes, because making Ran sad is just an awful thing to do. He's a big part of the reason I survived Harvey Mudd.

Finally, my parents. Both of my parents are elementary school teachers, and while this made teaching the very first profession I ever decided I *wasn't* going to do, I've seen firsthand for many years how much of a positive influence they've had on the lives of countless children. My mom's now retired from classroom teaching and works in her school library, but my dad's still teaching sixth grade, and his students constantly come back to visit and chat with him even as they reach highschool and beyond. They make me proud to be their son.

Dear MAJeff

Try as I might I cannot find an email contact for you, although I imagine that we have met via Mass Humanists (Greg Epstein/Tom Ferrick), AU, ACLU, or similar.

I have an unusual familiarity with church&state issues, dating back to the SC decision in Abington v. Schempp and Murray v. Curlett (1963).

We are both in Massachusetts, probably near Boston; I would enjoy meeting up with you.

I am not easily findable--for good reason--but usually emails to the AU/American Humanists/Secular Students/FFRF/NCSE come to me.

If the above do not lead to forwards, and if you are interested in contact, this email address works: kiri(+numeral 2) at comcast dot net.

Regards,
E. Schempp

By Ellery Schempp (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I am obligated to give an honor to Alan Glatthorn, our English teacher in the Abington Senior High School.

In many of my talks--some on line--I have told about my admiration for this teacher.

<>

Sorry for posting an old remembrance from a greybeard. I was really there, for whatever it is worth or worthless. I am now 68, and I've learned very much in these years.

Allan Glatthorn died in June, 2007. I was glad to have seen him again in North Carolina with several of his other students in 2005. This meant a lot to me.

Schempp

In my salad days, I tutored for the MONEY. Many parents of those grade school children and later my undergrad students told me that I was good enough to become a teacher.

I usually responded with a retching sound while miming a finger down my throat. Require me to deal with the lazy, arrogant, "make me do it if you think you can" idiots that slowed most classes to a boring crawl? Pay me a pittance for my full work week? Gawd, no.

But reversals of fortune put me in a middle school English classroom. A year, I planned, maybe two would put me back on track; I could advance to the bigger, better things I'd envisioned. I wouldn't be there long enough to need education courses. Mississippi didn't require them.

I'm still teaching middle school 31 years later. Dammit, turns out that I love the kids. I love making them laugh and laughing with them, helping them think, showing them how EASY many things are in English grammar so that the few and far between hard things can be taken in stride. And the gratification after mastery of the hard things? It is sublime: the cherry on top is saying, "I didn't give you that grade. YOU earned it." The kids, from the eager beaver to the lout, are my most inspiring teachers in both subject matter and successful--even if trying--relationships.

I hope that's a clearer statement of why I'd rather teach than become parent or pedophile.

Speedwell

In short: If you had a few more brains, you'd be a half-wit.

In length: I have to admit that it feels awkward even to respond to your comments. It's one of those situations where a response only provides you merit. I'll take the risk that it won't.

For you to compare your training of coworkers (who are paid to be there) to students (of which about a third want to be there, at best) is ridiculous. The margin of likability, enthusiasm for subject matter, and knowledge of subject matter is wide enough to spin around upon in your example. Whereas the thin line required by teachers is much less forgiving.

I teach 9th grade science and I am entering my second year in the profession (I don't call it a calling - that's a joke - I'm a professional). I am extremely knowledgeable in my content knowledge. I first earned a biology degree, then a teaching certificate, then continued school to be endorsed in general science (that's additional college coursework in chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, and science ethics), all of which was proven in tests required by my state. I scored in the top 10th percentile in both my biology and general science tests before even starting my physics coursework. Oh yeah, I'm almost finished with my Masters.

I am challenged each day to interest 14 and 15-year-olds in science. I'll admit that anywhere from about 10 to 30 percent of the students actually want to be there, depending on the class period. The rest want nothing else than to be able to check and send text messages, visit with classmates, sleep, throw things, make it their day's project to ensure that you and others hate them, make it their daily project to ensure that you and others love them, make it their daily project to go completely unnoticed. You get the picture. I teach about 140 very different students a day, each class for about an hour, each student for literally minutes. Yet I get it done (I have observations from veteran teachers, data from assessments, and comments left by students at the end of the year to attest to my capabilities).

The vast majority of teachers do not go into the profession just because they love kids. Of course, some do. Just like photographers love photography. Just like engineers love solving problems and efficiency. Just like pilots love to fly. Just like business owners love individuality, creativity, and profit. So be it if those you know can't articulate that they not only enjoy teaching kids, but also enjoy their subject matter. The vast majority can. You seem pretty cold; perhaps they simply chose to leave you out of their attention.

I love getting better at teaching just like any other competent person loves improving in his or her job. However, I don't have the luxury of just improving myself, but also the thinking and problem solving abilities of a large number of students. Guess what...I like it. I love it. I love it when the kids finally understand how fusion fuels the Sun. I love the satisfaction a student has when he can describe the link between chemical bonding and the resulting properties of a substance. Ooh, and guess what, I also love my understanding of the same material. And I love even more that I can teach it to students.

I teach my students how to think. I also teach my students not to paint with a broad brush. I challenge you to spend a day with 9th graders teaching them a subject you enjoy, then you'll be qualified to comment on the profession. I believe they will discover that you don't like them and they'll eat you alive.

Speedwell,

You reminded me of a writing class I had in high school. The teacher wasn't all that great, but the format of the course was far more effective than any english class I'd had before that.

Instead of writing a paper, turning it in, getting a grade, and never looking at it again, we had to keep re-submitting our papers until they were accepted. Our grade for the course was then determined by the number of papers we got accepted in the time available, which is pretty much the same way it works for anyone writing for a living.

That's the class where I learned to edit.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

I believe they will discover that you don't like them and they'll eat you alive.

Guess what... I love kids, and they love me. I take them seriously as individual people, bearing in mind that they are still works in progress.

I used to run a chat room for gifted teens on IRC. The kids in my room would drag in other kids and say, "You should talk to her. She really helped me figure stuff out." I helped them research schoolwork (no, I never actually did homework for them). I gave them straight answers to the usual and some unusual problems kids have. We saved two kids from suicide by finding out where they could get help. We told a girl who had been date-raped what she should do next (she did, and she turned out OK, and the guy never bothered her again). I didn't need their approval or their admiration as a Band-Aid for some sort of low self-esteem problem. When most of them graduated and left for college, right around the time I moved to another state, I closed the room. We had an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust and it was a good place.

Some of them asked me why I wasn't a teacher. My answer was that I didn't want to have to fight bureaucratic stupidity. I wanted them to feel free to tell me I was full of shit if they felt like it, and I wanted the freedom to agree with them and change my mind if the facts warranted it. I didn't want to be locked into one subject, or one classroom, or one time of day, or a preapproved book, or a semester schedule. Basically, I could never have put up with all of the silliness and useless beside-the-point crap that schoolteachers go through.

Your knee-jerk emotional reaction to my posts, which you probably barely read, shows me how ready you are to spring to what you see as the defense of your kids and your profession. I can see teaching is difficult for you and you feel embattled. I suppose that's natural in the conditions in which you work. You still insist that you love the kids, and I'm sure you want to with all your heart. But kids are not always that lovable. Sometimes they make you frustrated, disgusted, and angry. Sometimes they are nasty, dirty-minded, and brutal to each other and to you. It isn't necessary to feel love for the kids when they're being horrible and you are stressed out of your mind. It's important to get a grip on yourself, and to be the adult, and to show them you are honest, fair, rational, and brave.

"Love" is not always the "answer". If you think saying that makes me "cold," then maybe you're right. Take it to the bank.

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

JCR @85 said: That's the class where I learned to edit.

That sounds like a terrific class and I would have been extremely productive in it. It might even have turned me around with its emphasis on work taking shape instead of "must have this absolutely perfect the first time"!. Just curious--were you allowed to collaborate, as a work team might?

By speedwell (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Basically, I could never have put up with all of the silliness and useless beside-the-point crap that schoolteachers go through.

That is another point - an awful lot of those teachers are doing the best they can with what they have, and what they have is shit. Even the most creative, supportive, intelligent, loving teacher can have problems teaching kids when he or she has been switched to a different grade two weeks before school starts, told they have zero photocopying and craft budgets, tied down to a curriculum that forces test questions above all else, and told they need to pass the surly kid in the back who throws things at other kids every day because his parents complain so much and the principal just wants him out of the school.

Just curious--were you allowed to collaborate, as a work team might?

We were required to, actually. We met in revision groups each day, and rewrote our papers in the evenings.

I have friends who are professional fiction writers, who've told me that they go to workshops with other writers where they do same thing.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Sitting through my high school senior year of science, doing the science course curriculum was so boring that I told my teacher that I would not be coming back. He asked me what I was interested in, and I sure I said "girls". but after a bit of prodding he told me {If you bring in a current events article and give an oral report I will credit you for the class} It just so happened that Quarks had been discovered and I chose that topic. Mr Watson if by some chance you are reading this, that action you took (disregarding approved curriculum) was the best academic point in my life. I have gone on to study sub-atomic particle physics in great earnest and have a deep understanding of most science, Because of you Mr. Watson (SCIENCE) makes my life worth living, I will never stop learning. well in my book... THAT'S a great teacher!

Thanks MAJeff for this opportunity>great blog

By Sphere Coupler (not verified) on 13 Aug 2008 #permalink

Speedwell,

Take it to the bank, indeed. I'm glad my knee jerk response provoked you to give a comment that allowed me to understand you a little better with regard to your actual experience with kids - before it seemed as if you were simply spouting naive nonsense with a little bit of devil's advocacy (the latter being okay). Only by giving more can I understand you better and I'm glad I don't have to believe you're a half-wit. With that, your comments stemming from kids not always being lovable are true. Notice that I wrote that some students make it a daily goal to get you and others to hate them...they can be difficult indeed, yet they don't succeed in getting me to hate them, of course, because of your last comment: "It's important to get a grip on yourself, and to be the adult, and to show them you are honest, fair, rational, and brave." Agreed.

As for accepting the bureaucracy of teaching, that was a personal choice that I thought over for months before beginning coursework toward my certificate. Later, I found a great job in a medium-sized district in a small school with great principals. I know that choice will go a long way toward job satisfaction for me and I don't intend to move to a large high school with a dozen science teachers and four vice principals. It's amazing how much choice I have in my profession, though I had to make sure I found a situation in which I would. Some teachers don't have the foresight, as people in other professions.

Three last points:

Never did I mention that love is the answer, rationality is. The beside-the-point silliness is present in may other jobs (I have a knack for avoiding it in professional and daily life). And, believe me, 9th graders won't hesitate to tell you you're full of shit in a public class room.

dreamstretch @ #14:

My point is that when it comes to teaching young kids most people become teachers because they like children and not because they're knowledgeable.

Citation? Evidence? In my credential program AT LEAST 4 of 13 had masters degrees coming in. One had a PhD in biology. At least three came from teaching at the college level. At least two (myself included) had Engineering degrees. I really hate this assumption that people go into teaching because they "can't do".

As for myself, the greatest teacher I've ever had at any level is Mr. Fong, the Physics/Calculus teacher at my high school. I've never met anyone with that much energy and enthusiasm and passion for teaching, and after 30 years on the job no less! And, dreamstretch, he was a Berkeley grad and one of the most intelligent and knowledgable people I have ever met. I wish Mr. Fong were reading this so that I could tell him how much he inspired me, both to pursue an engineeriing degree in college and to go into education afterward. Thanks Mr. Fong.

And, believe me, 9th graders won't hesitate to tell you you're full of shit in a public class room.

Hooray for that. I was always too intimidated to do that when I was a 9th grader, although I had a teacher or two who richly deserved it (one was an English teacher who could not spell and the other one was a history teacher who was an unreconstructed cracker still fighting the Civil War).

Here in Houston, they send you to the county school for criminals and troublemakers if you disrespect the teachers and you're not lucky enough to have a cool teacher like many of the ones posting in this thread. It's all part of zero tolerance and the rest of the "kids are the enemy" mentality in the schools around here. I guess I don't understand why that sort of hatred should be the rule when most teachers really care about the kids. My younger family members, poor kids and honor students both, tell me they've felt the burden of it.

By speedwell (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

I can remember the really bad teachers I had as a child - the ones who would deliberately humiliate you in front of the class. I also remember the really good teachers who encouraged you and wanted to teach you to think and express your ideas - they were amazing to me.
Well, my daughter will graduate in the spring with her teaching degree and plans to go on to University of Oregon in Eugene for her masters. All I can say is that when she said she wanted to be a teacher I was so proud I cried. She truly wants to impart a love of learning and will make a great teacher.
Considering that her paternal grandfather had a 2nd grade education (you went to work early in those days) you can begin to understand what a leap this was for our family.
As I have told her, she is the person I wanted to be when I grew up.

I was definitely encouraged and inspired by Mike Bancroft, who was head of Maths at my secondary school and taught me during some years. He was one of the influences that led me to become a mathematician - and now I train maths teachers for a living.

By Marcus Hill (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

I will always be grateful to my high school IB biology teacher. She made us study the evolution section of the curriculum, when little me whose parents had harped on about "devil-ution" and "evil-ution" would have been too afraid to even look at that part of the book.

When the irrational fears had been swept away by perfectly rational science, oh man! It was awesome. And now I'm happily slogging my slow way through undergrad microbiology, atheist and proud. :D

By Terry Small (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

I had quite a few good teachers, but very few I found to be great or inspiring. Part of that is because I was a little "gifted" bastard who could cruise most any mainstream class without cracking a book. I hit Algebra before I needed any real math instruction, and I even taught that class once when the substitute we had was too lazy/stupid (he actually asked who the best in the class was, and when everyone pointed to me, I was instructed to get up front and give the lesson while he read the paper). Two of the best I had were math teachers, though. Mr. Smith and Mr. Harvey. Both taught my geometry course (Smith after Harvey got promoted to principal). Smith coached our math team. Now, as mathy as I was, I hated developing equations to solve a problem. I'd take bizarre routes to solve problems without writing an equation, and because arithmetic was so intuitive for me, I could sometimes work faster that way. In one such case, where I was the only person on the team not to develop an equation, I had to explain how I arrived at the answer. I demonstrated, using two fewer steps than the equation took. Mr. Smith stared at me for a minute, looked at the board, and left the room. He returned with Mr. Harvey and instructed me to explain again. I did so, and Mr. Harvey duplicated the expressions that Mr. Smith had. He then rolled up his newspaper, beat me soundly over the head a few times, and went back to his classroom laughing so loudly that you could hear him on the other end of the building. They never said I was wrong about anything like that -- they just made sure I knew I wasn't in the mainstream.

Along with those two, my history teacher Sherry Strow was a vital part of my high school life. She got me involved in debate and expressing my opinions, took reasonable political arguments as an opportunity to teach, and was full of ways to hold the interest of the most bored and apathetic kids. Also in high school, my speech teacher Mary Gaspersitch was a joy. I'd say it was the one and only time I was both allowed and encouraged to bring my bullwhip to class (and use it!).

I had my share of boorish louts, as well, but given that I was likely one at the time, too, I can't blame most of them.

For speedwellI am an educator and will attempt to honestly answer your questions:

I didn't do that. I mocked them for having no better reason--no other reason, really--for choosing the teaching profession. After all, any sane and decent person "loves children." What made the education students decide to become teachers?

I for one did not lovechildren when choosing my current vocation. Truthfully I hardly gave a thought to my emotions towards them. I just liked science. I wanted to be around science every day and animals in particular so I chose biology.

I had a few options as I approached my final 2 years of college - a lab job, desk jobs, or med school. I was sick of being a student and the other options seemed ridiculously boring to do for the next 50 years. Teaching had it's perks(the summer,holidays etc) and I had a few other things I wanted to do on my own time. It was a perfect fit and has been for 15 years.

That being said I quickly learned that being with the young people day to day is worth all the tea in China and is the best part of the job along with doing the subject matter I want to teach.

I guess I don't understand why that sort of hatred should be the rule when most teachers really care about the kids. My younger family members, poor kids and honor students both, tell me they've felt the burden of it.

I secretly think many of my teaching friends no longer enjoy the kids at least at the HS level. Less so at lower levels. In truth most kids are just looking for acceptance but there are a few turds.

In general I am always amazed at the accomplishments and creativity of the teachers I work with day to day. Just a review of the people in my hallway alone is quite impressive in that regard. I agree with the 9th grade science teacher above, it is a real challenge every single day and you simply can't compare it to training adults.

Best teacher ever....

A Collie named Rufus. He taught me to think beyond the carrot and the stick. He taught me to be responsible for someone other than myself. If I took the time, we did some amazing things together. Whatever I put into the relationship he gave back tenfold. He had a wicked sense of humor. And he was kind enough to let me practice my parenting techniques on him.

Thanks Wookster for pointing that out.

But please for give me. In that past 3 weeks, I got married. Had to catch-up at work from getting married. And, contracted the flu while only being able to take a half day off from work.

Can I just suggest if there are high school teachers here who are wishing to network with others, that they join this group?

http://groups.google.com/group/critical-teaching - The Google Group for Critical Teaching - A mailing list for educators interested in creating skeptically-minded students.

The group started after the Amazing Meeting 6, in response to the lack of networking available for teachers interested in challenging pseudoscience and the paranormal.