What Makes for Great Teaching?

This week, I'm giving a talk on the role of memory. I've given versions of this talk before, focusing on memory as it relates to our identity and our spiritual lives, or memory as it relates to the institutions where we work or volunteer. Regardless of which theme I emphasize, this talk is one of my favorites to give. Memory is an endlessly fascinating and fertile topic (especially in the Catholic Tradition), yet I find it's not often discussed. Memories, I've come to realize, strike many people like a dark forest. They are afraid of what lurks. They are afraid of what they might have to confront. 

For this week's presentation, my starting point is a prayer known as the "Suscipe," composed by St. Ignatius. This is the prayer:

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

Take, Lord, and receive all my memory: This week, I've plunged into memories. As I've reviewed my notes for the talk, I've been unpacking my memories from my time as a student, trying to recall how, at the time, I would have characterized great teaching. From whom did I learn, and why? What stuck with me—personalities or projects? What enabled me to achieve more than fleeting insights? Would I, as a student, have lived up to the expectations I now set as a teacher?

As I've worked through these questions, I thought I'd do a little crowd-sourcing. To readers, I ask: What do you recall about your great teachers, and great teaching? What resonated with you as a student, whether in grade school, high school or beyond?

What describes or defines your great teachers or your best experiences in a classroom?

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