The Best Courses Always Include… (Part Two)
by Steve Huerd
Recently, while I was sitting in the dental chair, I asked my dentist and the dental hygienist, to describe for me what makes for a great professor. After some thought, they both unanimously agreed that the best professors were those who truly cared for you. As my anesthetic gradually wore off later in the day, I began reflecting on how teachers communicated their concern for me as a student over the years of my education.
In high school, my world literature teacher let me teach class one day debating the merits of secular humanism as compared to the truth of the gospel. I was the only one in my entire senior class to take him up on the offer to teach class for one day and though he was an atheist, he enabled me to teach on whatever subject I desired.
At St. Cloud State University, during Social Science 204, after listening to a homosexual couple describe their relationship, we had to write a paper stating our own views. I expressed some strong statements in that paper and though the professor disagreed with me, he still gave me an “A” based on the quality of my work.
In seminary, when I couldn’t meet the agreed upon deadline during an independent study course, my professor cut me some slack so I could graduate. Dr. Mark McCloskey, a dean at Bethel Seminary, met me with personally for mentoring, greatly encouraging me during a difficult time in my life. Then, there was Dr. John Hannah, distinguished professor of Church History at Dallas Theological Seminary, who I encountered during Campus Crusade’s summer training, who cared enough to investigate nearly every detail of his subject matter making him a true expert.
In my doctoral program, Dr. Klaus Issler cared enough to keep pushing me to give my absolute best in his Theological Research and Integration course. Dr. Kevin Lawson expressed his care through being willing to do whatever amount of work it took to help me and my fellow Talbot colleagues grasp and comprehend solid and robust educational research. The list could go on and on of teachers who found ways to express care and concern in their pedagogy.
Caring for students, though there are a thousand ways to express it, is not dependent upon the subject matter but rather upon the character and heart of the teacher. And, whether a teacher is a Christ follower or not, whether in elementary or graduate school, students can tell if they care, making this ingredient an indispensable part of the best courses.