December 6 – nickname me!

135/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Battle-axe! First time I heard it, I had no clue what it meant. First time I heard it, I was in my early 20s. First time I heard it, I was settling into the first day of class in a summer course. At the time, I was at the tail end of the teaching program – the last two months after a grueling 13 week practicum and what seemed like 30 required courses in a span of 8 weeks. The final two months required students to take a few elective courses to complete the degree requirements. Most of the fellow students from my co-hort took the Sociological aspects of Education but I opted for the Anthropological aspects of Education as my choice. I entered the classroom and as is the norm with my educational choices, I knew no one. Then, in she walked – all dressed in a grey business suit. A solidly built, older woman with grey hair, glasses. She introduced herself as Thelma something hyphenated. She started with a very methodological, uninspiring, mundane introduction of the course. She continued to describe the arduousness of the course, her standards required to complete the course – which seemed unattainable – and ended the session with her prediction of success in the course explicitly stating that 1/3 of us would not do well and that she wasn’t there to make us like her. She told us that she was aware her nickname was Battle-axe! I was instantly intimidated. I wanted to transfer out of the class but about ¼ of the class beat me to it. I resigned myself to the fact that I had to make the best of it. As the week went on, I realized that she wasn’t living up to her reputation: the course was interesting, the assignments requiring no less or no more work than other classes and she was pleasant and interesting. At the end of the week, she told the class why she started the course in the way she did – she wanted students to be in the class because they wanted to be there, weren’t intimidated by the work and would put the effort in. She revealed that her first day tactic was to weed out the students who weren’t committed to the course. That message has never left me. I teach electives and I follow the same philosophy although I’m sure many of my students now know that I fake the first day toughness I show 😉 Thank you Thelma for leaving a lasting impression on me

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