Of course, my Yoga Teacher has been my most recent Best Teacher. But further back, three people come to mind. It’s amazing that from years of schooling, just a few really stand out.
One was an undergrad teacher, a true old-fashioned English professor, down to the tweed jacket. And he was hard; most students avoided him. I didn’t even really like his specialty area that much, 18th century English poets. But he was good. He stands out because he had high expectations and didn’t “suffer fools gladly,” which is probably why most students didn’t like him. He sent us on tedious jaunts into the (pre Internet!) library to hone our research skills and gave long reading and writing assignments, expecting accuracy and wit. If you got a good grade from him, you felt like you had accomplished something. I remember feeling weary from his classes, but I’ve always looked back and been proud of the work I did for him. He believed we were capable of top-notch work, and he showed us how to do it.
The second person that came to mind was also a literature professor, but a very different one. This woman was a passionate feminist and brought her mindset into her classes by introducing writers outside the canon. She was much more than a teacher to me; she was a mentor and guide. She was unassuming—but passionate—about her philosophical views, but also about education. She was one of the few professors experimenting with how she taught and how students interacted to deepen the learning process. It was in her blood to be enriching her own learning, and she was passionate about creating similar experiences for her students. She was a role model for challenge, but also risk.
The final “teacher” who came into my mind is my maternal Grandmother. With the simple act of holding me and saying “I love you.” My grandmother made sure I knew I was loved, that she loved me, no matter what. The fact of her love has remained powerful and continues to nourish my heart; I can still feel the impact of her “I love you’s.”
What good touchstones. So for me, “good teacher” means someone who believes in my potential, shares her passion in creative ways, and loves.
They were imperfect; so am I. But that’s not what I remember. What has lasted is the way each of these 3 people put themselves forward, made sure that their voice was not just heard, but felt.
Really the question isn’t what am I, but what am I trying to be? Not simply as a teacher, but as me. Who has shaped your path? Who helps you see the kind of person you want to be?