Throughout my school years I seem to have been assigned a disproportionate number of “old-school” teachers who could be extremely harsh, often utilizing the “tough love” form of teaching. Some examples:
- My third grade teacher’s common form of punishment was making the student copy a page selected at random from the dictionary. The entire page, including any illustrations and pronunciations. Students who mouthed-off to here would get slapped across the face with a yardstick. She’d also give spankings for your birthday (1 per year of age). My class was her last, as she retired that year.
- In 7th grade our “Language Arts” (they didn’t call it “English” then) teacher would utter the phrase I opened this post with if you didn’t use proper grammar in class. She’d then make you write a page on what you did wrong and how to avoid it in the future, which you would present to the class the next day.
- My 8th grade history teacher was infamous for her outbursts. If the class wasn’t paying attention, she’d do something outrageous to make sure they did. The year I had her she not only put her arm through an overhead projector but also shattered a chalkboard by throwing a misbehaving student’s desk into it.
- My high school calculus teacher (I had him for 2 years) started off each year with a statement that “one of us is the stupidest person in this room – let’s not reveal who we are to the rest of the class.” He was notorious for his quizzes that left us hopelessly stumped despite having been taught the material only minutes before, and he’d single you out in class for doing poorly and make you do problems on the board in front of everyone else.
All that being said, I learned an amazing amount from these teachers and wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I don’t believe the newer teaching methods designed to make everyone feel special are nearly as effective as the ones that motivated out of fear of embarrassment.
How I Learned About T-SQL
This is a T-SQL Tuesday, isn’t it? The topic isn’t explicitly database-centric this time around, but I know that’s what you’re here for so I’m definitely going to steer this post in that direction.
I learn best by doing. Typically this comes in the form of “playing around” and I do more than my fair share of that with regard to databases. When I want to learn a new topic, I typically start by reading a book cover-to-cover on the subject. Once I’m done, I go through it again, this time doing any examples – be them on paper, on a computer, wherever. I digest a lot more the second time because I’m actually doing it for myself, not just reading someone else’s work. My first database experience was with Access 97 in high school. After a few years of playing around I finally purchased my first book on the subject: Running Microsoft Access 2000. I read through this several times and it’s one of the more dog-eared books on my shelf. The better I got, the more complex my Access projects became and I eventually realized I’d be better off using SQL Server. Again I bought a book, this time it was the Microsoft Access Developer’s Guide to SQL Server. After that I was hooked.
While I learn best on my own, I also enjoy instruction and presentations so long as they’re interactive. If the person giving the presentation is asking questions or presenting problems and then demonstrating solutions, I’m as happy as a clam. If it’s a lecture without any audience engagement or participation, I’ll be bored out of my mind and probably falling asleep in short order. This was a common occurrence during some college lectures.
How I Teach
I do my best to teach in a way that I know would keep my attention if I was in the class. I work hard to provide examples and make my presentation easy for the audience to follow along, not only by breaking up the material into chunks that are easy to digest, but also by keeping my delivery method upbeat and providing a few distractions along the way to help wake up anyone who might be starting to doze off. These distractions are typically comics that best represent my own twisted sense of humor. I also try to ask questions during the presentation, and audience members who speak up are usually rewarded by me throwing candy at them. Everyone likes candy, right?
I’m sure that some of my teaching methods have been influenced by teachers I’ve had over the years. Whenever I find myself in a teaching position of any type, be it speaking at a user group meeting or giving a short presentation at the office, I try hard to combine the best of all the methods I’ve been exposed to in hopes that others can learn and enjoy.