Outside of parents, who has influenced your life more than anyone else; who had an impact on your life and what was it about that person that meant something to you?
I noticed that many kids started this week’s blog post stating how hard it was to pick one person. It wasn’t for me. I would have had the same answer for the last sixteen years. The person who has had the the greatest impact on my life is Professor George Branigan. I had him in a course called Schooling at Stonehill College. It was, and I know this will sound silly, the first time I actually thought deeply about anything. I had become pretty good at “playing school.” I did the minimum amount of work to get decent grades. In his class I did not have to play school. It actually interested me. All I did every day was to try to figure out why he was wrong — to out think him. He was the first teacher I ever had that actually seemed to think about things and wanted his students to do the same. He never gave any assignments due the next class yet I found myself reading more for his class than any other. Each class seemed to have absolutely no plan, no agenda. Yet somehow by the end I found myself taken on an intellectual journey. I was learning and became totally engaged. I can remember many kids in class being upset because he wasn’t “telling” us what to do. At the end of the semester, he gave us an assignment that truly changed my life. His final exam was “hand one in.” “Hand one in!” Ahhh! I was actually going to be responsible for my own learning. It is the event in my life that defines who I am as a teacher. I have also tried to reproduce his class in my room. A class in which learning takes place in a very individual way, according to one’s own needs and desires. Sometimes I try to find another reason for who I am, but ultimately I always come back to that class. To this day my teaching is influenced by Professor George. As I enter a time in my career in which I am going “2.0” crazy, it is still his influence that makes me think about what I am doing and drives me to constantly improve the learning environment in my classroom. I can guarantee that he would not remember me. I did not transform myself in that one semester. It was slow and took many years. I am far from finished.
So what did I do for that final exam? I took a series of comic strips that he always talked about (Zippy) and interpreted them. I wrote the paper to the lyrics of a Bob Dylan song.