You can tell the semester is winding down when some of my 2010 students spent our lab time last week surfing for fall classes. I overheard two nearest me discussing how to know which classes to take by consulting ratemyprofessors.com.
I’d heard of it, of course, but I’d never gotten around to checking out the site. Naturally I took the opportunity to look myself up . . . and find out I’m not on there.
We all know most ratings come from people who either hate or love someone/something, so I felt a mixture of relief and disappointment. None of my students hate me enough, but none adore me enough, either. Then one student told me he wanted to add me a while ago, but you have to fill in too much info and it got too tedious. I guess I can be glad my students are smart enough not to waste time on tediousness! Or something.
I can relate. How often did I tell my professors how much I appreciated their class? Yeah, not often enough. And that got me started thinking about teachers to whom I’d love to give a shout-out for the highest rating possible.
Like Mr. Moore, our high school choir teacher at Palo Verde H.S. in Tucson, AZ, whom we affectionately called Old Man. He was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and could draw not only incredible sound from us, but feeling, too. And when you’re a teenager, I’m pretty convinced that having a positive outlet for all those turbulent emotions is a dang good thing. Plus, having one of the best choirs in the city felt awesome, made us proud of the work we put into it, and gave us a reason to want to show up for high school every day.
Also there were so many fantastic professors I had at BYU, like Phil Snyder, John Bennion, Elizabeth Wahlquist, Sirpa Grierson, Trent Hickman, Lance Larsen, Steve Walker, Jackie Thursby, Chris Crowe, Louise Plummer.
Sometimes I feel like I was raised by them — by the English Department — because they shaped who I am in so many important ways during those first unstable adult years where I was trying to figure out myself and the world. They helped me appreciate multiple perspectives and learn to question/analyze everything to see both the complications and possibilities. Those skills have become invaluable.
Then there are dozens of teachers whose names I’ve forgotten but who nevertheless impacted my life.
Like the high school English teacher who gave me the first D I’d ever gotten on a paper. I needed that D as a wake-up call to try harder.
Like my fifth grade teacher in Portland, OR (was her name Carol Mitchell?), who let me write a novel instead of a short story and even typed it for me, quietly encouraging my budding writing career.
Or my fourth grade teacher who let me organize our class into producing a (horrible) play I’d written myself.
Or a lit professor in college who treated my questions and concerns with such respect and deference that I left his office feeling like I’d just met the embodiment of “graciousness.”
Or my social studies teachers in middle school, one of whom had a poster of sentence structures for us to learn to use. I never learned the names of the structures (“starting with a past participle”? “interrupting with an -ing phrase”?), but I’ve been using them successfully since eighth grade, and more than fifteen years later that has become my model for teaching grammar to my college students (it’s the usage, not the terminology, that’s important).
I only ever dropped one course because of a teacher: in college after sitting through the first class period, and it was mainly because his voice was so soporific I was afraid of falling asleep in class and offending him. 😉
So today in the comments I’d love it if you’d give a shout-out to the teachers you’re grateful for and tell us why.