"You are an amazing teacher. Thank you for putting your heart into every class!"
How did she react?
She has not yet- I am going to forward this post to her.
How did I feel?
Teaching a matter is one thing, living it is another. Especially in college: Once I was lectured by a moral philosophy professor who hated women and was not afraid to say so. Another guy, a psychology teacher, bloviated about empathy for 90 minutes right before laughing at a student for asking a seemingly stupid question. Sitting in his class I choked a vomiting sound. My neighbor shrugged,"A signpost never stands at the place it points at."
A few months later I enrolled in a UBonn class called "Pedagogical Psychology", taught by Jenny. She proved my neighbor wrong. A signpost can stand in the place it points at- lecturing us on schooling Jenny did an outstanding job. She lived what she talked about in theory. Explaining to us how to structure pieces of information so they can be processed and memorized optimally she divided the class' content into digestible bits. I learned several tricks about schooling kids which later I discovered in Jenny's methods. She put emphasis on involving all senses in education- and used films, computer games, and interactive tasks herself. We even went on a trip to a psychomotor center! A sensory immersion.
Theoretically a lecturer does not have to have a mature personality. But Jenny owns one. She is authentic and speaks her mind freely. In class her words were absolutely clear. Her teaching benefited from her acute thoughts, her contentual experience and most of all from her open heart: She was not afraid to start sentences with "I felt ... " when giving an account of her own research. Usually lecturers avoid these two words as if they marked their fall from the academic latter.
Next to putting theory into practice and being a great person she covered the two ingredients I look for in a teacher most. First off she was passionate. Her eyes wide open she constantly communicated, What we are discussing matters to me. It is important! Her drive was contagious. I started noticing psychological hits and misses in parent's behavior all around me, not just from observing my own emotional reaction but also from the facts Jenny had passed on to me. I reflected on our session's content a lot. They had affected me instantly because they came with Jenny's heart tagged on them.
My second favorite teaching ingredient is trusting the student's abilities. Jenny did so. I could tell she saw potential in each of us. She treated everyone with respect. There was no hierarchy in her classes and if she took the lead she did so because she cared and wanted to make things work. Or because she needed to contribute something so bad she just had to raise her voice, even if she interrupted a student in the midst of their presentation. I thought it was sweet and honest. If I asked her a question she would carefully consider her answer and afterwards check in with me: Had she understood my concern correctly? If no, she would try again. When I presented in class her feedback was sophisticated and uplifting. She responded to my emails at six in the morning. She gave thoughtful career advice.
Jenny's devotion, her personality and her skills did not only feed my mind and heart; They also restored my belief in academia. Disappointed in German academic psychology I had almost lost interest in studying it when Jenny came along and lit my fire again. In fact, she is the reason I miss psychology at my new school.
I hope she will never stop proving disillusioned students wrong and there will be countless people leaving her classes thinking "This content is crucial! Everyone should find out about it! I can't wait to tell my friends."-- Just like I did each time I got up after class. What a teacher! Thank you so much, Jenny.