Learning Through Stories: Who Was Your Most Inspiring Teacher?
Today begins the third round of the Learning Through Stories project on the Brilliant Blog. (See here and here for stories from the first and second rounds.) A lot of scientific research—and our own experience—demonstrates that we understand and remember material best when it’s presented to us as a narrative, or when we tell our own story about it. So, once a week, I invite you to share your stories of where and when and how you learned something in particular. And I’ll be asking you to do one additional, perhaps challenging thing that is nevertheless the key to the exercise: to draw out a generalizable lesson from your story that could apply to the learning of other things, and could be used by people other than yourself.
The question this week is: “Who was your most inspiring teacher, and what enduring lesson did you learn from him or her?” Write your answer below, and try to include as many details about when, where, and how it happened, as well as what lesson you can draw from it. I’ll start:
My most inspiring teacher was my high school English teacher, Mrs. Goppelt. Mrs. Goppelt loved reading, loved writing, and her passion was infectious. I was already a confirmed bookworm and writing came easily to me, so I could have coasted through her class—but Mrs. Goppelt didn’t let me. Once, I remember, I met with her in her office and she handed my essay back to me with a stern expression. “You write very well, Annie,” she said. So far, so good. “But sometimes your writing is more style than substance. I know you can dig deeper.” I left feeling unfairly criticized. I knew the essay was good—good enough, anyway. But after a while I came to realize that by not letting me get away with good-enough, Mrs. Goppelt was doing me an enormous favor. I did dig deeper, and I produced work for her that I was really proud of—essays that actually cost me something in terms of effort and struggle, and were the more valuable to me for that. I still think about Mrs. Goppelt and her challenge to dig deeper—especially when things come easily. That’s when it matters.
OK, your turn: Who was your most inspiring teacher?