I have a confession to make:  when a yogi reminds me to have gratitude for a teacher, I often don’t think of someone who has helped me learn about myself.  Neither do I always go for a “guru in drag,” the person or situation that you hate but has a lesson to teach you.

 

My gratitude is often directed to my General Chemistry professor from 1979, my freshman year in college.  I don’t even remember his name, so I can’t start a cult of personality about this particular teacher.

Here is an abridged gratitude list about my Chemistry professor:

  1. He painted a clear vision of chemistry so that I could easily move between the Big Picture and the details.
  2. His passion for his subject was real and contagious without being overbearing or like a cheerleader.
  3. I never took my eyes off him. No, he wasn’t sexy. Not even charismatic. He was present.  Present to each of us individually and to the class as a whole.
  4. He wanted the best for his students, but never coddled us.

 

I can still remember many of the chemistry principles from that class.  I used some of what I learned in later studies and work, but not much.  The ideas stayed with me because of the experience of learning them.  College chemistry is about as cognitive a course topic as you can find, but I know that this experience was much more than intellectual.

 

Teaching Tip – Gratitude List

Making this gratitude list explicit helps me to channel even a little of one of these qualities into my courses and interactions with students.  I had a very profound experience in this course, and I want to replicate that experience for my students as much as I can, no matter the subject matter.

Here’s a suggestion for how you might be able to use Gratitude of Teacher in your own teaching experience.

  • Consider a teacher that had a significant impact on your life. It doesn’t have to be a formal teaching situation like mine was.  Feel free to work with the person who helps you learn more about yourself, or the dreaded “guru in drag.”  Use who ever comes to mind when you think of the prompt.
  • Write out your gratitude list. Try to be specific about what the teacher gave you that you hold dear.  How EXACTLY did this teacher shape the way you think or experience the world?
  • Put it aside for a day or two. Come back to it.
  • Choose one item on the list that is particularly important to you. Ask yourself, how do I offer this to my students?  How can I expand this offering to my students?
  • Return to your list regularly. You can use it to improve your teaching in whatever way makes sense to you.

I hope my attempt at avoiding trite expressions of gratitude just because it is Thanksgiving (for those of us in the US) has been successful. With deep sincerity, I thank you for reading.