Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Teachers go straight to heaven

It was the start of first semester at the local uni yesterday, and I wish I was studying something. The problem is I’d like to study everything, but only for about a week. And I’d only want to go to class when it suited me. And I’d only want to do the interesting topics. And only the easy ones. And no exams or essays. And I wouldn’t want any further HECS debt. (If you know of any programs for Stingy Lazy Students On A Whim, please do let me know. No prizes for suggesting I read a book.)

I was a bit of a perpetual student at one stage, and wandered into several different unis and TAFE colleges over the years, usually settling into a glum heap somewhere in the depths of the library. Thinking back, there were only a few lecturers and tutors who stood out. The best ones loved what they were doing and wanted to share their enthusiasm, and the best of these was an inspirational fellow called Peter. Part of his appeal was his dark-chocolate voice, but he had a meditative quality about him which was quite mesmerising. Standing at the front of a lecture theatre waiting for everybody to trail in and sit down, he’d lean on a side wall, hands behind his back, and look at the floor, as though he was relaxing in the sun somewhere. And in tutorials he'd actually listen, as though he hadn’t heard the same ideas 50,000 times before. He had a way of making everybody's thoughts seem intelligent and new.

But the thing I loved best about him was his comment on my first essay. I was a mature age student and too big for my boots and thought I could wax lyrical in an academic essay, just because I wanted to. I can’t remember the topic, I just remember getting carried away and coming up with my own theories and thinking I was going to change the world. Anyway, this dear man had the grace and sensitivity to put me in my place kindly, without thwarting the eager student within. He made a few notes in the essay margins, but this is the one I'll always remember: “This is not strictly correct, but it’s interesting.”

What a line, eh? Admonishing and encouraging at the same time - it was quite a feat. I hope everybody at least once in their lifetime gets the blessing of a teacher as fine as Peter the Great. God bless him.