Raymond Yim rocks my world. His class (Analog and Digital Communications) and the way he teaches it is quick becoming my model for how courses can accomodate both traditional (lecture and problem set) and nontraditional (...well, myself for one) learners. I've always wished for someone to do for me what I try to do for most of the folks that I tutor, and - wow. Go Raymond. He's really going above and beyond.
He called me in because I'm struggling in the class, big-time. And he sat down and explained that he didn't care about the grades and the important thing was that I learn what I wanted to learn, and together we went through and designed a Mel-friendly communications class that involves me skipping lectures, reading lots of books and original articles (oh the books and articles!), and designing my own final exam (which is a project on information theory, by the way). Starting after Thanksgiving break, it'll be my job to come into his office and try (probably badly, but I'll do my best) to "teach" him the concepts I'm trying to learn.
I want to grow up to be like my professors. Mchang's wit, initiative, and computer wizardry, Somerville's hardcore physics majesty and deep-rooted curricular rethinking, Raymond's flexibility and continuous learning and crazy math intuition, Diana's giant meld of music and science and her patient counselling on how to bring the million things you want to do together in your life, Brad's component ninja-fu and quiet upheaval of the entire POE experience, Gill as an extension of the engineering philosophy into everything else in life, and as a teacher of teachers...
And then there are non-ECE profs. Lynn, Rob, Allen, Caitrin, Steve, Prof. Donis-Keller, I'm - oh, what the... here we go.
We are so lucky to be here and learning from these people. They're who I want to grow up to be. When you have good teachers, you incur - not a debt, but a responsibility - that you can only fulfill by passing the same experience on to the people you teach yourself, later in life.
I want to say this now for when I read this blog entry in a few decades: Mel-of-the-future, you wouldn't be where you are now without the things that happened and the people that helped you at Olin. You're a very different person now at 20 than you were the first time you came here (remember? that painfully shy and awkward 16-year-old cowering behind a textbook and an inability to accept failure well enough to take real risks?) and you're a different person yet when you read this in however many years it may be because of the experiences between me, as I write this in 2006, and you, whenever you may be.
And then there are the teachers at IMSA. And the ones in Glenview, and the ones that weren't technically your classroom teachers but helped you tremendously anyway; the folks you've met, the ones who have emailed you, taken the time to talk with you, taken slices of their lives to share with you so your own life can grow. And your parents and your family. They teach you as well.
This is a reminder to my future self to give back, and a reminder of how much has been given to me, and a reminder of why I am a teacher, and a reminder of how much I owe to those who have taught me. I have not stood on the shoulders of giants; I have been carried by them.
Heavy on the melodrama, this post is. I'll stop reflecting in a moment and get back to doing. But one of the "doings" is going to be a lot of thank-yous. They're long overdue.