Sadly, it was as I was reading the news recently of the teacher in Leeds, UK who was stabbed to death in her classroom that this thought even came to my mind. Mrs. Ann Maguire was described by her students as “the best teacher we ever had.”
So I dedicate this post in honor of Mrs. Maguire, and all of the best teachers in the world, including a wonderfully brilliant and unique one that I was fortunate to know.
He had a number of unusual traits one might not expect of the best teacher in the world. He was merciless, cruel, unfeeling, and just plain scary. He was very much like Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase. There was no chance to sit back and daydream through a dull lecture. This heartless beast taught using the Socratic Method: endless, back-and-forth questions, answers, and follow-up questions.
It didn’t matter whether you volunteered to participate or not, if your name was called, you had a choice: answer the question intelligently or risk public humiliation.
My fellow classmates and I studied our required reading assignments in groups, so that we’d be better prepared for the inevitable—that terrifying moment of horror. The moment when you heard your name called. When you had to stand alone under the intense spotlight and face the challenge of being equal to its brilliance.
I completely hated this man—at the time. I had to know the material before every class, be able to analyze it, and then be prepared to debate it in an openly hostile setting. It isn’t fair! I thought, my young skull full of mush not yet even capable of understanding the concept of fairness.
The final exam was an excruciating trip through fire. Two nearly sleepless nights were devoured studying to make sure that I had soaked up every ounce of knowledge I could possibly absorb. And when it was over, I realized something. This cruel monster had taught me how to learn and how to think.
What an amazingly kind, selfless, and wonderful gift.
The SOB was Professor J. Eldon Fields of the University of Kansas. The best teacher in the world—at least, in my world. Thank you, Prof. Fields, may you rest in peace. And if I might ask a favor, would you please help Mrs. Maguire find a nice, peaceful place there too.
To both of them, and to all of the other best teachers in the world, thank you. Your students are eternally grateful.