Last spring I took a course with an instructor who really irritated me. I got an A in the course, but I could not wait for it to be over. I was thrilled to take the Summer off from school. I don't like taking classes in the summer any way, but I definitely needed a mental break after dealing with her.
This semester is very different. I enjoy my instructor. He is very knowledgeable, but he also values our opinions and ideas. We only have four students in our face-to-face class, which leads to vibrant discussions, at times. Even though I was pretty comfortable with most of the material before the class even started, I have enjoyed the experience. And, while writing a research paper is a pain in the neck when you have a full time life that has nothing to do with school, I am enjoying what I am learning in the process of doing the research.
Normally, I take a class every other semester (Fall on, Winter off, Spring on, Summer off). However, my school is not offering all the classes I need to get my degree in the next two years, and some of the ones that they are offering they are only offering once or twice. So, I need to take a course next semester.
What's really amazing to me right now is that I am actually looking forward to taking next semester's class. My current instructor has stoked my desire to learn and not squelched it. Plus, I found out last night, next semester's course is being taught by an instructor I had two years ago. Like my current instructor, the man is knowledgeable but also respects the input of his students.
These are the type of people we need in education. We definitely don't need people who are so full of themselves that they think that there is only one way to answer a question: their way. Everyone brings something of value to a discussion, even if they don't have a PhD.
I've learned a little of that lesson myself this semester. Of the three other students in my class, one is a VERY sharp, good natured, experienced managing RN, another works in admissions in a hospice setting, and the third used to be a LNA but is now a paper pusher for the National Guard. The first two women are my age or older. The third woman isn't yet thirty.
I brought a lot of prejudices into the classroom, based on education and experience. While I had the utmost respect for the RN, I didn't give the other two students much credit. The hospice worker was constantly having computer problems that I smiled at, uncharitably. The Guard girl always had some story to tell about the drama of her life, and some excuse as to why she didn't get her homework turned in before class.
Over time, I learned that the hospice worker came back into the work force a few years ago after a divorce. She's trying to get her degree to improve her career opportunities in health care. While she and her computer are not best friends, she's no idiot either. She even turned her final exam in before me this weekend (and I turned mine in more than a week before it was due).
The Guard girl really tries hard. And, a lot of her stories are kind of funny. She too is trying to get her degree to improve her career opportunities. She's doing this while raising a preschooler on her own. That earns her points in my book. She does still kind of irk me when she blows off any contribution I make to the discussion by saying stuff like, "Well, we can't all have M.B.A.'s" I think that it bothers her that I already have a Master's degree (not an MBA, mind you) and yet I'm back in school for another B.S. It's not easy for me either. I just have more years and experience under my belt, so I make it look easier than it is.
See, everyone could benefit by taking a step back and giving everyone a chance to prove themselves without someone else's assumptions getting in the way.