A moment from my day...five minutes ago...

As an experimental psychologist I teach an undergraduate class in statistics. The last test of the semester is tomorrow and a student came by to ask a question about Analysis of Variance. We sat in my office. She asked her questions and I explained, in as many innovative ways as I could, the logic of the F-ratio. Finally, the light goes on and she gets it. Ready for the test.

As she leaves she just keeps saying over and over, with tears in her eyes, "Thank you so much. Thank you so much."

I respond, "No thanks required. It's what I do. I'm a teacher."

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10 thoughts on “Teaching”

  1. Teaching does feel magical sometimes for the student. That lightbulb feeling is amazing for both the teacher and the student. What the student does not see is the hours required to learn all that stuff. It is not magic to the teacher, it is the product of hard work and passion.

    Unfortunately, I am in an old skool do-it-by-hand class so I am re-learning the ol' F ratio. -Daniel Clark

  2. Richard-

    I wasn't there, but- judging from your description - I doubt she was simply thanking you for providing a clear explanation of how the F-ratio works. You could have been dismissive. You could have been haughty. You could have told her she had no chance if she hadn't figured it out yet. You could have given her the impression you didn't have time to do this.

    But...I'll go out on a limb here and say, you didn't do any of those things. You treated someone who came to you in a very troubled, vulnerable place with love and respect. Something not all teachers do, even (gasp!) at ACU.

    THAT is not necessarily your job... It is much more important than that. It is one of the things that makes you imagio dei.

    God bless you, brother.

  3. Daniel and Matt,

    I realize that this post might be a bit self-indulgent. But here's why I posted it. I was struck how just doing my job--with joy and hospitality--seemed so extraordinary to her. And my guess is that when any of us do our jobs in a similar manner--with happy service-driven confidence--people on the receiving end feel that they have received a precious gift. This is a post for anyone who does their job with skill and kindness.

  4. As your current and past student I can honestly say I think God has given you the gift of teaching. I say this for 2 reasons:
    1. You have an uncanny ability to make complex matters simple.
    2. You somehow always seem to know what students are really asking you, whether its about the F-ratio or the nature of God or the future. Knowing what question a student is really asking is often more important than knowing the answer.

    You already know that I hold you in high regard, so I'll spare you the warm fuzzies but I think you're right about that last comment. As it says in Colossians 3 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." It's so easy to forget, thanks for the reminder.

  5. When I was an undergraduate I had to go and find a thesis advisor. I was so frightened and worried about that. After an amazing pep talk from a very upbeat friend I charged out of my dorm room and persuaded two different professors to take me on as an advisee. But I'll never forget one of them. AFter I thanked him profusely he simply smiled, sweetly, and said "its my job!" That was thirty years ago. People never forget an injury, but they also never forget a moment of kindness.


  6. Dr. Beck - I too would like to thank you for the teacher that you are on this website.

    I have posted from time to time. I'm not nearly as educated, astute, or articulate as everyone else who post here. I do have a BS in Electrical and Electronics Engineering but suck big time as a writer. Yet, I have felt fully welcomed by you throughout.

    The biggest thing I see you demonstrate (and recent posts have been pretty flammable), is your grace in answering rebuttals. It is clear that you continually seek to learn from many of the posters, simply by the tone in which you respond.

    You stick your neck out everytime you submit a new post, a new thought. I just wanted to encourage you to keep on keepin' on.

    Gary Y.

  7. Everyone should know that Shannon is a (brilliant) thesis student of mine (her project is on the religious correlates of benevolent sexism). In short, she's just being nice to me because I'm editing her manuscript and we have a meeting next week. I see right through you Shannon!

    You are very kind. I try not to get snarky in my responses. And I fail a lot. Much of the credit has to go to the readers here. Not a lot of flame throwers amongst us (to date, let's keep our fingers crossed). I think the people who read this blog are probably people who are more interested in questions than answers. We want to think. Not to shout. And I try to write that way. Rather than give a firm opinion I want people simply to walk away with "Hmmm. That's interesting. I'll need to think about that."

    I know that is frustrating for some readers, that I might seem to be hiding a lot. But, really, who cares what I--Richard Beck--thinks? It's more important to figure out what you think.

    Socrates taught me that...I like playing midwife...

  8. If there is one thing the church needs today is "grace", and kindness, instead of the "culture wars".
    There seems to be little besides "right behavior" that anyone is interested in.

    Character seems to pale in significance to abortion, for instance...Passion can be expressed, but it must be impersonal. Issues that we believe in are fodder for our democratic discussions. And we should always be open to hear what another has to say, as long as they are not dogmatic but want to learn, as well..

  9. I'd echo the others who said that you do your job with grace and kindness, Richard. And that is SO important - and always much appreciated.

    That student, and so many of your students, will never forget you.

  10. Your teaching is actually beyond the ACU campus, and into the local high schools. My 16-year-old, enrolled in dual credit English, chose interrogation torture as the topic for his research paper. Your articles were a springboard for his research, and he had to read and present both sides, with a summary of his own view. He got his grade back this week: A-plus, with a 98 on grammar. Thank you for the depth you put into your blog without talking "over" those of us who aren't Ph.D's.

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