Great Questions

January 25th, 2018

My High School Biology teacher was a mild-mannered man nearing his early 50s. Through the eyes of a teenager, it was easy to dismiss his classroom disposition as social incompetence or good-hearted aloofness.

He was a husband, a father, well below average height, with a well kept peppering beard, and a multi-decade teaching history. Retrospectively, those facts reflected his ability to handle a room of hormonal, growth spurted teenagers.

Even with the typical lab shenanigans, not once did he show visible anger. Just remained calm, firm, polite, and consistent.

Admittedly, I did not like his class. While I never partook in the tomfooleries, I was exceedingly disengaged. (Sorry. There's no comeback story. I'm still not an aspiring biologist.)

It didn't help that my most exciting class preceded his. To attend his, I descended from a few flights of stairs. Not far at all. No real excuse for my habitual avoidance behaviors which approached tardiness.

Unexpectedly, that class may have grown into being one of my most influential classes. The reason has nothing to do with the grand subject of Biology. And as he predicted, I don't recall a goddamn grade. What I do recall was very annoying.

When a student asked a relevant question, he frequently responded with a demoralizing quip . The typical exchange would go as follows.

The student innocently asks "Teacher, what's the powerhouse of a cell?" The teacher replied "That's a great question! Write it down."

Having never been told this by other teachers, the student was confused. "Huh?" The teacher repeats, "Write it down." He continues to lecture.

Student, "But you're the teacher! You should know and tell me!" Teacher nods with understanding. Yet, he continues to lecture.

Student looks at the notebook with a pen at hand. The question was unlikely written. "Now what?" Again, the teacher nods while lecturing. The student becomes visibly frustrated but must catch up.

The teacher. He may have known. He may have not. That wasn't the point. Hardly anyone wrote the questions down. Our grade-obsessed, feeble minds weren't able to humor his low-grade, zen-master tricks.