The “Ideal” Teacher

I remember the day our Principal, Alan Sir, introduced us restless sixth graders to our new Physics teacher. Considering how this branch of science was itself being introduced to us for the first time, we had been quite apprehensive and unsure of what to expect from both, the teacher and her teachings.

In that moment, however, considering the petite brunette standing next to Alan Sir, our fears of having to spend a year under the painful scrutiny of a strict instructor were assuaged and we all started secretly nudging each other in anticipation of all the fun we were going to have at her expense in the following months.

Or at least the fun we THOUGHT we were going to have.

The moment Sir S swept out of the room, our new teacher swept towards the black board and scrawled out her name in big, bold letters with incredibly swift motions of her hands.

We were soon to realise that her penmanship wasn’t the only thing quick about her. Her wit, her gaze, her mind… Just about everything about her was fast, and she rarely missed a beat.

Despite that fact that she caught every single thing that happened in the classroom [passed notes and hushed jokes included] she never let on, unless she found you cheating on a pop quiz, in which case may the odds be EVER in your favour. Oh, and she rarely beat around the bush. On most days, she would march into the class and dive right into the subject without so much as a “good morning, students”.

She was super speedy yet a brilliant teacher and every one of us absolutely adored her.

So it came as a bit of a shock when we realised that, going into the ninth grade, we would have another teacher teaching us Physics.

In this new tutor’s first class with us, most of us kids were subdued and unwilling to participate. Understandably, for we’d just left a truly amazing teacher behind.

Turns out that our new sir wasn’t half bad, either.

Sure, he wasn’t at all like our first Physics guru. In fact, they were totally different in a number of ways.

For starters, he was a LOT more laid back. He’d enter the class with a relaxed strut and get us into the “mood” with an Internet joke or two before digging into the syllabus and, in many ways, that was exactly what we needed in the midst of all the pressure of having “grown up” and being thrust into high school.

He was patient and great at lengthy explanations, often entwining the theories we were forced to learn with an interesting personal anecdote [you know what they say about the spoon full of sugar…].

He was an excellent sir and made sure everybody understood the concepts he taught and he always knew the precise moment at which to crack a witty one-liner to lighten up the mood.

I was thinking about this the other day when I realised that despite their stark difference, they both perfectly fit my description of an ideal teacher. One is so fast, it seems like she’s participating in an eternal 100-meter sprint while the other moves around with a much more relaxed gait; one of them prefers to jump right into the work while the other tried to ease us into it; one of them kept a vigilant check on us while the other let us do our own thing…

However, it all boils down to how they’re both extremely talented at their job and make fine teachers.

So what does it take, then? What qualities, characteristics, features does one need to be “ideal”?

I mused a good deal about this before I realised the obvious; it just takes passion.

It doesn’t really matter whether your slow or fast or firm or easy-going or brisk or chilled out. You just need to care. [Of course, a basic competence of your subject is rather important too…]

You see, two things that both of these mentors had very much in common was that they were both supremely passionate about Physics and they also really did care about us.

They moved on with to the next chapter only –and only- after everybody had grasped the meaning of what was completed so far. They were welcoming and made sure that we knew we could approach them if we felt the need to. They spent hours of their free time crafting life-sized models and creating colourful power point presentations and devising smart little experiments just so that we the students could learn better.

And that’s the recipe for being an “ideal” teacher, I guess; there’s no need for the a large number of diplomas to mix in with the batter; it doesn’t matter what quantity of quickness you’ve poured in and the litres of vigilance can be anything from 1 to 1000 [as long as there is some].

Just make sure you add a generous amount of passion and the cake of your education will taste just fine.

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