Monday, July 10, 2006

College memory

Yesterday, as I was driving home from yet another awesome weekend trip, I was mulling over my career crisis and wondering what it would be like to go back into teaching. Would I be a good teacher? Would I find it fulfilling? As I was thinking about that, a memory from waaayyy back in college popped into my head, and I want to pay tribute to the professor that made this experience memorable for me.

One of the required courses for aspiring educators at UW-Oshkosh is called Educational Psychology. This course had the reputation for being incredibly difficult and, unfortunately, incredibly dull, so when the time came for me to enroll in this course, I was feeling a bit negative about it. The first day of the semester finally came, and I went to Ed Psych, ready to receive my syllabus (everyone knows the first day of class is syllabus day) and then maybe be released early.

In walked very stuffy-looking professor. He was wearing a three-piece suit, his hair was slicked back, and he carried a very ragged and worn brown briefcase. He didn't introduce himself. He proceeded to clear his throat and began to lecture. On the first day of class. He used overheads that were jam-packed with all sorts of terms and statistics, and he went through the overheads at such a feverish pace that I couldn't take notes fast enough. The material he was talking about was difficult to grasp and he was going so quickly that I soon got frustrated and decided to just put my pen down and try and listen as best as I could. As I looked around the room, my fellow students were doing the same thing. We were looking at each other as if to say, "What is this guy doing? I can't keep up!" and "Here's another crappy professor. This is going to be a long semester."

After lecturing in this manner for about five minutes, Dr. Paxton stopped talking. He loosened his tie and shut off the overhead projector. He then said the most powerful and memorable thing to us: "This is how NOT to teach." Brilliant. We were all stunned, and honestly, we were relieved. And, the fact that I remember this moment out of four years worth of moments that I had in college is a testament to how powerful that was. The rest of the semester was a lot like that--full of lightbulb moments and powerful messages.

So, thanks Dr. Paxton. If I do go back into teaching, I will remember you and what you taught me.