How a History Teacher Changed My Life
Mr. Stafford was the high school history teacher who literally changed my life. His US History class in 10th grade may not have been such a milestone experience for my peers, but for me it opened up a whole new world of learning. The instructional style he used was quirky yet engaging, and I learned to appreciate his love for the subject matter and his passion for teaching.
First, he brought history to life through his unique storytelling genius. I remember him recounting famous historic speeches or meetings or even boxing matches in ways that helped our teenage minds make the lessons from these events relevant. With dramatic gestures and expressions he would reenact scenes to help us understand why this was an important point in history, and he expected us to take copious notes from these inspired lectures.
Even more important than his teaching style, however, was the technique he taught on taking notes. Until this class my notebooks were a gory mess, lacking structure and coherence. Mr. Stafford required a precise form and organization for our class lecture notes, using an indented form for each subject and sub-points. He checked our notebooks regularly to cultivate the exact habits of this note taking style, and a significant portion of our grade was based on the notebook evaluation.
It may sound strange, but learning this style of recording notes was transformative for me--I became a much improved student in high school and college partly because of this ability to organize my thoughts from lectures, seminars, and personal inspirations. Classmates often wanted copies of my notes because of the clear structure and flow. I don't think I made less than an "A" in a history class at any level after that sophomore experience, having acquired a joy for understanding the context, events, and lessons learned from historical events and leaders.
Unlike Yale Divinity School professor Joel Baden, author of “The Historical David: The Real Life of an Invented Hero,” Mr. Stafford didn't try to rewrite or reframe history to fit within his own worldview. Baden dismisses many historical texts that portray King David as faithful to God and obedient to divine direction. The arrogance of academia is the real curse of knowledge.
Mind mapping has now become my note taking and writing tool of choice because of the efficient ability to produce a similar outline structure to what Mr. Stafford taught. I primarily use an iPhone, iPad and Mac app called iThoughts for recording notes while, for example, conducting a board or school assessment. This tool allows me to email the map and outline to an associate who converts these notes into an editable document. Using this process we can deliver a school assessment within a few days, which then provides guidance for a strategic planning effort.
Was there a teacher or learning technique that made a significant impact on you?