Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Up the Down Staircase, Sovik Took the Elevator

This is my first post for #YourEduStory. I hope to not miss any weeks. It's a great idea to organize edubloggers under a common focus. 

The topic: How are you, or is your approach, different than your favorite teacher?

Mr. Brown is my favorite teacher. Or is it Ms. Ryan? Actually, I think I have about 10 or 20 favorite teachers. They all made an impact on me that stands today as I make decisions in both the classroom and my personal life.

My Favorite Teacher

If I have to choose, it's Sovik. He has a PhD but doesn't believe in all that, "Call me doctor, stuff." This guy is either a genius or totally insane. Either way, his over-the-top way of explaining music history was more engaging than any lecturer I've had to listen to for a May mini-mester. For three and a half hours, this guy would yell about rock 'n' roll, and we all loved it.

I later got to know him better when I worked as his teaching assistant in graduate school. Most of our conversations were about how to deal with people who are just trying to kill our buzz for having a good time and doing our jobs well. Beneath his casual Friday dress was a scholar who would often remind us that learning is supposed to be interesting, fun, and to not take our intelligence too seriously. 

How I am Different

Sovik taught to a different audience. It was about 100 to 200 college students face-to-face and sometimes a thousand in the online sections. He had four TAs and the most popular course that satisfied the cross-cultural diversity credit for almost all of the UNT undergraduate programs.

Although my students like my way of revealing the underlying patterns of human behavior, they would turn into zombies by the third week if all I did was lecture and hand out quizzes.

I've learned that a great history teacher knows how to set up the opportunity for students to think about historical problems. They are masters at pointing where to look but not revealing what to see. History teachers train students to do what historians do, just to a much more limited breadth. I can't say that I'm there, but every year I take steps in the right direction.  

What Did Sovik Teach Me?

It's not the pop music that I remember from Sovik's classes. It was the way he found the irony in so many cultural developments. He wanted so badly to instill in his students a sense of intellectual humility. He wanted us to develop the ability to question our own perceptions in an attempt to better understand another's.

Thanks Sovik. I could have written about so many great teachers. I could have made a list of 20 because I've been that fortunate. But I chose you because you are my favorite who I will never emulate, ever.