This one’s for the teachers

This week we’re posting in honour of our great teachers. They engage us, they challenge us and they push us to extend our intellectual conclusions. We should feel inspired to take a minute and stop to really appreciate the academia that encapsulates our Queen’s experience. Check out below some highlights from AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner, Colin Zarzour’s speech at the 2014-2015 CTL Teaching Awards Ceremony.

“I write to you today to express a sentiment held by many students at this university. It is not expressed as clearly or as often as it should be, but it is always present for us in our minds when under your tutelage.

That sentiment that I wish to express is gratitude: gratitude for all the thought, effort and care every one of you takes in researching, planning and delivering a truly exceptional and transformative learning experience when you come to work at Queen’s.

Transformative. I want to highlight that word, for a moment. It is used in much of the universities’ messaging, and our outreach to potential and current students. What does it mean? Is it the process of churning out graduates, ready to start a business or get that job or write that thing, about the stuff?

I don’t really think so. Maybe some believe it is that, but I’ll share with you a students’ thoughts on this:
Teaching is inherently a transformative experience, but that transformation is an incredibly intimate and interpersonal process. Whether we like it or not, the act of imparting and receiving knowledge is a necessarily intense process. I visualize the process, in sentiment, as similar to the transfer of memories in Lois Lowry’s excellent piece of fiction, The Giver. In the novel, the pleasures and pains of all humanity are given from an elder to a youth to preserve the history of the world. A truly emotional idea that was unfortunately translated into what is sure to remain a B list movie starring Jeff Bridges but nonetheless, the analogy stands, I think!

When I think back to the times when I believe I absorbed a teacher’s information in the deepest capacity, it wasn’t always the fun teaching moments, the games or amusing anecdotes that connected me with the piece of knowledge. In the occasions where I learned something that I still remember and apply, I remember those experiences to be times of intense, often strenuous periods of labour. It was an effort, to be sure, but an effort taken on in partnership and seriousness with my professors and mentors. To be taken seriously, and to have a guide that is willing to see you arrive at your destination no matter how many times you fall of the path – that is teaching and learning. That is personal. It is transformative, and I think, you all are proof that it is present here at Queen’s University.

Thanks for listening – you have my gratitude.”

Modified from Colin Zarzour’s speech at the 2014-2015 CTL Teaching Awards Ceremony

academic affairs, academics, AMS, slider, students


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