The Power of Learning and a Great Teacher

August 20, 2018


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After making a major move to the West coast I realized that my desire to learn has been my saving grace. It got me thinking about the best experiences that I have had as a student and a pre-mature “learner”. Specifically my experiences with what I will call a “career hero”; as in someone who helps us define/re-define our passions and are responsible in part for the outcomes we benefit from today.  I remember, I was an undergraduate at Stony Brook University and I decided to take my first summer class there. As a Psychology and Sociology degree candidate I needed to take another social science course to fulfill my requirements. I decided to take an “Introduction to Women’s Studies” course and although I was a self bonified feminist I still was unsure of what to expect. My professor was a young pretty brown-haired graduate student who was wearing a fashionable summer dress. Her eyes were friendly and her voice projected louder than her small frame suggested it would. By the end of the first long summer class I knew I would want to come back again. There was something about this professor, this powerful woman named Kristin Hole…

I have had a handful of memorable teachers in my time as a student but something about me instantly identified with Professor Hole. Something about her charisma, her sass and her ability to make every answer seem relevant made her someone I instantly admired. Although I had ruled out a career as a teacher at this point and was on my way to becoming a psychologist this woman reminded me about my original passion for teaching. In her class we explored controversial topics and had sometimes uncomfortable conversations that were often remedied by her direction. She reminded me that the real reason I wanted to become a teacher so long ago is because teachers have the rare ability to make you see the world and where you are in relation to it. When we learn, no matter the subject, we excite our investigative nature and stumble upon accidental learning of ourselves and others. This is what took place in my class that summer. I began to discover things about myself and my abilities as well as knowledge on the subject matter at hand.

Although I was a self-proclaimed feminist I had not taken the time to assess where this passion for women’s rights emerged. I discovered that my love for a singer/songwriter/poet/pianist guided me to many feminist theories and concerns. Tori Amos is a singer whom I began to listen to in my early teens and whom I remain loyal to in this present day.  She addressed political and social concerns. Tori Amos is a singer whom I began to listen to in my early teens and whom I remain loyal to in this present day. She addressed political and social concerns from a woman’s perspective in her music and because her lyrics were encrypted in poetic dialogue I would spend much time deciphering meaning. I never fully grasped the impact on my psychological functioning and my perspective regarding gender identity that one singer had until Professor Hole’s course. This accidental learning would teach me things that I would carry long after I forgot the theories presented in class. Therefore I can rate Kristin Hole’s teaching as above average because she was able to encourage and facilitate this process. While still a student herself she was able to produce something that I felt many tenured professors cannot.

So this blog post is dedicated to Tori Amos, Professor Hole and all the other exceptional hard working teachers out there; those responsible for igniting in others the passion to learn and the ability to revise our relationship to the world. Thank you for the work you have done and the work you are soon to do.

Food for thought: Now ask yourself, who is one of your career heroes? Who is that someone that taught you something about yourself and your core beliefs?

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