I went to an all-boys academic high school in
One English teacher foisted upon his classes 10,000 word essays on arcane and difficult subjects, which he graded on an upwards curve, making sure that the best actually were head and shoulders above the rest. He was extraordinarily difficult, yet admired and respected for his knowledge and ability to teach. Once asked if he threw the essays down the stairs and graded them at random based on where they landed, Mr. R_____ responded dryly, “No, I throw them into the air, and those that don’t come down get A’s.” He was among the most beloved teachers we ever encountered. How many teachers actually deserve that adjective? Those who are born knowing how to reach young minds.
Mr. D____, a physics teacher, just out of college, spoke to us of the properties of simple machines [this is as boring as is possible to be boring to someone interested in poetry and language], but he once lectured while standing on his hands for at least ten minutes. I still remember: “Work equals force times distance.” We saw it in practice, as the physics was explained by a born teacher who knew how to inspire.
How was I going to grasp mole weights or memorize the periodic chart of the elements if I just didn’t care about the subject? My chemistry professor, Dr. B____, made his classes fascinating because each day he presented us with a riddle or told a long hilarious story that illustrated some principle of chemistry. Why was the night watchman’s gold watch discovered in the vat of hydrochloric acid, but not his bones? The answer is, not as one student responded, because “It took a licking and kept on ticking” but because “Noble metals are impervious to acids.” This man understood the power of a joke to make a point. He was born to teach.
The three anecdotes above are not meant to imply that students will not succeed through straight lecturing or memorization of facts; the stories are designed to illustrate my point that a bit of relaxation and a lessening of "teacher dispenses words of wisdom, and the students absorb them" will invariably help students grasp what the teacher needs to impart.