The Importance of Good Teachers

April 15, 2013

Teaching yourself seems to be in vogue as of late - partly due to the rising costs of education, but more due to the ease of access to quality educational resources. Blog posts proclaiming I taught myself to code in X days, months, or years always float to the top and are lauded. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. Teaching one’s self is a great feat - one that takes an immense amount of effort and discipline. People who have taught themselves tend to understand concepts better and can retain things longer.

But somewhere along the path, there was a teacher involved. I’m not referring strictly to a teacher by profession, but a mentor or individual who passed knowledge on. Someone piqued interest in the subject enough that we were instilled with an eagerness to learn. Coding is not easy, and teaching yourself how to code isn’t an enjoyable task by any means (sure you get joy from making things but the headache brought on by debugging, troubleshooting and reading docs offsets any of that), yet plenty of people choose to do it at a young age, when the majority of us are goofing off. This is where teachers serve a very important role.

There are plenty of examples where people who became skilled (for lack of a better phrase) at their professions at a young age, or became interested enough in it to amass the 10,000 hours of work sufficient to be good at it, did so because a teacher inspired them and encouraged them to be. I’ve come across a few articles that highlight this fact.

Teachers have more experience than we do in the field that we’re learning. If they approach teaching the right way, they have the ability to instill in us a desire to know more about that subject and an intense eagerness to learn. They demonstrate to us what we could do and the knowledge we could amass if we devote ourselves to the subject.

But there’s also the opposite kind of teacher. Looking back at my schooling years, my computer science teacher didn’t instill anything but hatred of the subject in me. Assignments and explanations of topics were so mind numbingly boring that I thought nothing good could come out of it. My teacher set me on exactly the opposite life path, than some of the aforementioned teachers did to their students. It’s a dangerous thing to do. You set so many talented, young minds off of a subject they would have enjoyed had you taught it right. I don’t code for a living now, nor am I proficient in much, but I actually like it. I finally understand and am able to ‘create something from nothing’. If I had a better teacher at the time, would I be elsewhere in life? Would I have accumulated my 10,000 hours?

Good teachers, those who inspire, can lead you down your life’s path pretty early on. However with education under such disrepair, both at the K-12 and university levels, these role models have become increasingly harder to find. If you find one, hold on to them and thank them. They make the learning process much easier. I’m definitely jealous if you’ve had one.