Wednesday, 14 September 2011

My Teaching Mentor

Throughout my educational career I have come across many different teachers, and yes I have had some GREAT teachers and many more not so great ones, but none have ever inspired me as much as my university professor, Dr. Smith.  I was first introduced to him in a required third year Geography course at the University of Western Ontario and was immediately engaged by his teaching style and just his general persona.  He emanates a passion for not only subject matter, but teaching as well and a genuine care for his students and their thoughts.  In my opinion, it was instantly obvious that he far surpassed what a teacher should be, in my eyes, and in doing so it was clear to me that he has positively affected numerous students’ lives, including my own.  He creates a classroom without bias and judgement, a safe environment for students to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions without fear of being told they are wrong.  This allows students to feel comfortable and free, which in my experience is rare in the classroom.  Although teachers encourage creative thought, critical thinking, open mindedness and free thought in the classroom, it is was always rare for me to be able to do this because students would be reprimanded for deviating from the facts and teachers point of view.  Dr. Smith always encouraged this.  He wanted to hear our ideas, our feelings and our thoughts; even if he himself did not agree with us, he was always willing to listen and ask us why.  By doing this, Dr. Smith allows students to think for themselves and form their own opinions (critically thinking anyone?) which I believe give me, and other students, the confidence in my thoughts and opinions and allowed me to actually think, learn, grow and foster my own intelligence … what I believe education should be all about!  This model of teaching moves away from the regurgitation students are used to in the classroom which foster memorization skills and really does not encourage true learning and understanding, particularly for students, like me, who are not particularly keen on memorization.  The learning that was encouraged in all of Dr. Smith’s classes was lifelong learning that will develop critical thinking skills, free thought and formalizing opinions which will only further develop student literacy outside of his classroom.  He allowed us to question what we were learning which should be an integral part of the classroom; if students are too fearful to ask questions, how will they ever truly understand?  This was a big part of the classroom, because Dr. Smith has some very controversial views in relation to the other Geography professors at Western; however he never imposed these views on me or any of the other students.  This allowed me to open up my mind even more since he proposed an entire different view point I was previously unaware of in my Geography classes.  Dr. Smith is also active in the integration of technology into the classroom (you will not find an overhead in his classroom!).  He is constantly finding new programs to integrate into his courses and allow students to use in their presentations, if it wasn’t for him I would have had no idea what a Prezi was (check out his Prezi on Teaching Geography for an insight into his philosophy).  He also actively maintains social media as well, including a blog, a Facebook page and Twitter so he can connect with students because he is aware of how they communicate. 

 Dr. Smith’s inspiration and motivation also moved outside of the classroom because he was willing to meet with myself and other students on numerous occasions to discuss not only class material but general conversation as well.  Even just going up and talking to students when he sees them instead of ignoring their existence outside of the classroom.  I had never realized how isolated some teachers make themselves to students and how disconnected they can be until I met Dr. Smith.  Now I see how necessary it is for a teacher to be able to relate to their students, because if they don’t they will not be able to engage them and the students will not feel comfortable sharing what they think or how they feel about something due to fear.  In fact, if I had not felt comfortable enough to talk to Dr. Smith, I probably would not be here at Brock University in the Faculty of Education today.  Although I have always known I wanted to be a teacher, I had previously been adamant on attending another institution, however, once I told Dr. Smith about the opportunities at Brock and the Technology Leadership program he encouraged me to try something new and leave my comfort zone.  It is because of Dr. Smith that I took the leap and moved away from home to attend the forward thinking, current institution of Brock.  Dr. Smith is one of the most passionate teachers I have been lucky enough to meet and he is an inspiration for what I one day hope to be when I enter the teaching profession.  Although Dr. Smith teaches in a university setting, I believe the skill set, passion and inspiration I have gained from him will be even more beneficial when I have the chance to introduce them to elementary age students and allow them to develop these skills from an even earlier age.  Dr. Smith goes above and beyond the call of a teacher and if it was not for him I would not be the person I am today or have the passion, dedication and inspiration to be the teacher I want to be; he is my teaching mentor.


Dr. Camille Rutherford said...

Welcome to the blog-o-sphere.
Sounds like you have a great teaching mentor and great ideals to live up to.

McCartyED said...

His use of social media seems to be a logical extension of his willingness to accommodate students even outside of class. That's a good lesson, that technology can amplify great teaching habits, but only if they're established there in the first place. Nice post.