Life Lessons: The teacher makes the class

September 20, 2008

It’s one of the first things you learn about in university. If you’ve got a boring, rude, or not-so-very-knowledgeable professor, then good luck with enjoying that class, no matter how interesting the topic might be! Professors have the power to inspire a passion for their subject… or kill a budding interest (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing- it can help us come to the conclusion early on that we want to explore a different interest instead).

In my first year of university, I entered it with the full intention of getting my degree in Psychology. I had taken a psychology course in high school which I adored, but my university professor was so dry that I found myself nodding off within the first 10 minutes of that first class. I didn’t care enough to really try because I didn’t have respect for the professor and consequently did not enjoy the class at all. I decided pretty early on that becoming a psychologist wasn’t in the stars for me and I ought to stick with what has been my steady passion since I could hold a pen: writing!

There are other areas of our life besides the education system specifically, however, in which the teacher has some measure of control over your enjoyment and effort level. When I used to go to the YMCA, I would faithfully attend step classes and kickboxing classes almost every day of the week because I grew so fond of my teachers and the classes that they taught. All of the instructors were volunteers so they were there because they wanted to be there (not the case with many university profs, I might add), and this in turn caused their energy and enthusiasm to rub off on the rest of us.

And then we have my beloved boot camp class. The instructor was fantastic. So good, in fact, that I am very happily going to be attending another 4-week session of bootcamp starting on Monday! I think that if I had an instructor who was less friendly and encouraging I would not be so eager to return- especially because I have noticed that when I exercise on my own, its not the high intensity stuff that I immediately start doing. I prefer walking and lifting weights at an easy pace when I’m by myself. So in this case, it really is because of the teacher, I believe, that I love bootcamp as much as I do.

The same goes for lectures and empowering speeches by charismatic and influential people. Years ago, my mother thought that alternative medicine was the most ridiculous unscientific concept imaginable, but she had to go to a seminar all about acupuncture and by the end of the session, she had discovered her passion for alternative medicine and realized just how very scientific it is. And now she owns her own practice that specializes specifically in alternative veterinary medicine! I can’t help but wonder if she would have come to this conclusion if the speaker at this seminar had not been enthusiastic, clear, and so informative about their topic.

Have you had a teacher who wound up changing the direction your life went in? If so then make it a special appreciation day and send a quick note to them to thank them for what they did! Appreciation should never go unrecognized- but unfortunately, all too often it does. But just like teachers have the power to change our views on some things, we have the power to give people the recognition and appreciation that they deserve.


  1. Hi!

    I love psychology!! My university was more lab oriented than clinical. That was a disappointment, but in medical school, psychiatry filled in the blanks for me!

    I still remember fondly, and with gratitude, the best teacher I ever had. He had a way of making you feel good about what you knew, and it made you want to learn more! I can only wish to approach his wonderful style, but at least I had the example set for me by him.

    I also remember the teachers I had who I would like to see again and adjust their attitudes 🙂

    I really enjoyed reading your post!

  2. I must concur with you here. Teachers can make or break a love for a particular subject. I was pre-med in college and the class that broke me was genetics. Very dry teacher, hard to understand and she had no interest in the class, which deterred many students. It seemed to be a dropping point for many!

    I have since had some very good teachers who truly care about what they do and getting others to love their subject in the same way. Ha, now I want to go back to school!

  3. I did this a few months ago…hunted down my 4th grade teacher and was surprised how SURPRISED! he was at the impact he’d had on my life.

    completely wanted to be a writer because of his influence.

    great post.

  4. I used to teach – I lectured at a local college, tutored to put myself through college, and even taught 9 year olds for a couple of months.

    There’s nothing in the world like meeting a former student and seeing how well they turned out. I’ve had loads of students look me up on Facebook – one little 9 year old is now married and a doctor. I was partly responsible she says.

    Teachers don’t earn very much in Malaysia, so I’m in media. But once the mortgage and kid’s tuition are sorted, I’m going back to teaching.

  5. Crystal!

    Your comment about genetics hit home! In college, I was rejected by the genetics professor, and not permitted to take his class since he told me I wasn’t “smart” enough! Ha Ha !! I wonder how he’s doing now?? He probably did me a favor, but at the time, it hurt 😦

  6. Dr. J- Those kind of teachers are the best. If only they all had attitudes like that!

    Crystal- I love school. Sometimes I kind of wish that I could just stay in university for years and years. No need for an actual career! 🙂

    MizFit- that’s so sweet of you! That’s great.

    Dee- that has to be one of the best things about being a teacher; seeing how your students have progressed over time and all the accomplishments they have achieved.

  7. Yup! The teacher can drive ones desire to learn a specific subject. It can be very challenging when the teacher lacks passion or enthusiasm. Nice post!

  8. I couldn’t agree more!
    I had a colege prof who literaly changed me life – I ws going to go into medicine but had to take this writing class and he is the one who encouraged me to take a look at writing as an occupation. He mentored me, encouraged me, shared with me. I owe him so much and YES, I have taken numerous opportunities to thank him 🙂

    PS he is older and married a (much younger) former student and I was always jealous of her. Weird??

  9. I had the most fantastic saxophone teacher when I was a young, awkward teen. The lessons were more than learning an instrument, she was the first person to tell me I was talented and encouraged me to express myself. We’d listen to Charlie Parker and then throw away the music and just improvise. She taught me that I was good enough to make the music on my own. She gave me a voice I didn’t realise I even had.

    The gift of a good teacher is really, truly priceless!

    TA x

  10. Mark- I am so happy that my professors this year all seem to enjoy their subjects!

    Leslie- that’s funny. I’m pretty grateful to him, too, then- might not have gotten this blog started up if he hadn’t convinced you to write!

    TA- such a good story! I love that you would just improvise… that kind of encouragement from a teacher is how we learn to expand and create something completely original.

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