Best of Job: My Worst Teacher

October 21, 2008, 9:30 am; posted by
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Originally published in May 2007.

Whether holding my hand over the fire pit of his analogies or examining broken twigs on the trail of his meandering reasons, never track his logic could I.

I always felt like I was a few days behind him, pressing through the dark forest of my instruction — trusting, hoping that his point lay just ahead, around the bend. I never enjoyed the chase, and there’s a thin line between being challenged and harassed. I came to a particular point in my trek when I determined that when a point is that well-hidden and obscure… when it requires that much angst to merely understand it… only a fool would spend his time rotting in the woods trying to catch it. The best in life is easily understood, and truth despises fog.

My worst teacher.

A man who bristled at the notion that you might think differently than him, he sent you his own copious notes before class and asked that you not take any others. They distracted him. If a question endeavored to stampede the discussion away from his notes, the energy he’d employ to corral us back into line was almost pornographic. Bullying, effacing and no-kid-gloves sophistry were never below him.

Sadly, these tactics were never below me either, and we butted heads to such a degree that he eventually asked me to drop the class. Success in his class was conformity to his thinking, a convincing imitation of it, or the old B-minus silence — none of which seemed a workable solution to me. My parents had taught me to speak my mind and to be aware and wary of socialist thinking. To him I was ruined.

While he had earned tenure, a doctorate in sociology, and ample respect from his colleagues, in turn he asked his students to simply piggyback on his experiences, judgment and morality. To just trust him. Our own conclusions were not encouraged, but headed-off.

But perhaps in being the worst teacher of my life, he is slowly morphing more readily into the best. He is the one who taught me that when it comes to faith, love and logic, I will only embrace them when I am tracking the truth — not, alone, someone else’s version of it.


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