Thursday, October 13, 2011

By Your Pupils You'll Be Taught

Like a great many other people, I was amazed at a story on the front page of The New York Times about a community college class where an adjunct professor refuses to accept questions from a student with a speech impediment -- supposedly because the educator finds the young man's stutter "disruptive." While I do not want to judge anyone unseen, I must confess that if there is any truth in this story, then the teacher in question is losing out -- and may need to consider other professional options.

I am currently an adjunct at three universities, and in all my years of teaching (for the record, I first taught at the elementary level exactly 30 years ago), as well in all of my hundreds of public lectures, I have always welcomed questions. Hell, I love 'em! Far from being disruptive, questions are proof that people are not only listening, but that they actually give a damn about what I have said. Questions from students and audience members often lead me to consider aspects of a subject that I might not get to on my own, and make the learning process dynamic and interactive, as it it ideally should be

More than six decades ago, Oscar Hammerstein II, that much-loved poet of the American musical, wrote in one of his lyrics for The King and I, "when you become a teacher, by your pupils you'll be taught."  In my years of teaching, I have relished the wisdom my students and listeners have led me to with their questions and comments, constantly helping me to stretch, to grow, and to see familiar things anew. No matter how thick the accent or how challenging the impediment, I have relished every question.  And in the fifteen years has been on line, I have answered literally thousands of email inquiries, and consider myself genuinely enriched by the process. Even when I cannot provide someone with an answer, I can often point the way to other sources -- and that too is a joyous thing to do.

So to all my past, present and future students, listeners, and readers: please know that questions are always welcomed by yours truly. I consider it an honor and pleasure to help when I can, and consider myself incredibly blessed to receive so much in the process. The more you ask, the more I learn.
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