As a high school student many years ago my favorite teacher challenged us to be the best we could be. At whatever we were comfortable doing. He lived those ideals as well. A few years after graduating I was a union representative for my school. He was the union representative for his school. To sit in the room with the person I admired was amazing. He was still pushing us to be the best we could be.
My favorite college professor asked tough questions. Not questions that had you sitting there in the lecture hall wondering why the question was asked. Questions that made us go research the topic and when we had breakouts with our TA we would argue those questions. We wanted to discuss them after they were asked. They did more than provoke thoughts they provoked action.
Great teachers don’t shove students through preordained doors and declare victory. Great teachers open hallways with 100’s of doors and inspire you to go find the right door for you. What is your passion becomes the rallying cry. The questions great teachers ask make us desire the opportunity to discuss that point. We desire to find a way to solve the mystery presented in the question. Or to sit and argue and discuss the point.
The greatest teachers leave questions that unanswered by their students. The next generation of students then asked the same question as the previous generation. That question going for generations of students. Then one day it is solved and the next question is asked by the greatest teacher.
What question did your teacher inspire you with?
I am not talking about easy questions like what do you want to be or where are you going? Rather these are the questions that you pondered. The questions that you asked yourself when you were alone. Sitting and thinking and wondering and asking that question again and again. What are those questions?
For me the first question that impacted me enough to stop and wonder was a very simple question that took me years to answer. What is your favorite book?
At first I could easily answer that question. I had a number of favorite books and quickly that day the question was asked I raised my hand and answered that question. My teacher that day asked the follow-on question that took me years to finalize. Why do you like that book?
Why do I love the Lord of the Rings (LOTR)? There are two distinct reasons why those books resonate for me more than any others. First off they are two variations of a Hero’s tale. The hero sets out on an epic journey that in the end is larger than the hero. Fraught with danger, risk and in the end a personal choice that hero must make. Am I able to complete my quest? My first reason for loving LOTR.
But there is a deeper reason I love those books. I found them one rainy morning during Library time in what was 5th grade at the Bangkok Patana School (BPS). The librarian by then no longer bothered to show me book ideas. I had consumed all of the Science Fiction books by then and was well into the fantasy section when I came across A Hobbits Tale, or The Hobbit as it is called. I found that book and the three ring quest books and read them. When we lived in Bangkok we didn’t have a TV in our apartment. There was no escape of Saturday morning cartoons. There was simply middle earth.
Those books became a passion for me. I recall waiting when we returned to the states for Penguin to release them in the US. I remember reading them again aghast at the editing that removed huge chunks of Tolkien’s world. I remember hearing that there were other books the great author had written of the middle earth that were as of yet unreleased. It remains a place in my heart and mind that I can travel to when times are rough.
The second question came to me in college. It was one that I didn’t realize impacted me for many years. “What are you going to do to change the world?” We are all asked that question at one point in our lives. We all chase that question. In the end that is a question that fits nicely into a life. For a time I started, ran and evolved the Society of Dead Teachers. Trying to help teachers revitalize their love of teaching. I expanded that into listservs and the Internet. I’ve expanding that from the society to my blog. Every day writing down my thoughts, my dreams and my ideas. Sending them out into the ether for others to consider, discard and in the end move on as well. I realize I will never finish answering the question that impacted me. I will never be done with my part of changing the world.
What are your questions?