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What I liked most about my favorite instructors

    1. 2nd Grade

    She was curious as to why I'd broken a rule rather than being angry with me. (I'd taken a package of math problem sheets meant to be taken one at a time. And I didn't leave any for my classmates to take out!)

    2. 5th Grade

    He would ask for our explanations for a phenomenon before describing the accepted theory. (Why do these colliding water waves produce this new pattern?)

    3. 8th Grade

    Told me how bad his performance was in English classes and how good he was in math classes, and how he was not only ok with it but pleased with the fact.

    4. College freshman

    I was insecure about wearing glasses. In a lecture, the professor briefly presented a study that found that eyeglass wearers were perceived as more intelligent, and added "That's why I wear 'em". :)

    5. Sophomore year

    The prof explained in the W (writing) Section of his course that when grading our answers to essay questions, he was unable to separate our ability to express our ideas in writing from his judgment of our understanding of the material. He, himself, was brilliant in his clarity of expression. I'm still trying to understand how he did it. He drew diagrams well, but it was his ability to speak clearly and precisely that really made an impression on me.

    6. Junior Year

    A prof I had was obsessed with big ideas and it was infectious. As a result, I’ve never lost an appreciation of abstract ideas though my views on them have changed . One big idea of his that’s stuck with me is this one: The greatest scientific achievements of the 19th and 20th centuries were the clarification of the ideas of “energy” and “information” (as it bears on communication). The greatest accomplishment of the 21st will be clarifying the idea of “information” in the sense of “knowing about” that complex living systems possess. For example, an impala knows about (e.g., has a perception or sees) the location of a cheetah—though sometimes it’s too late! True or not, to me it was fascinating to consider. Energy? Why energy? What is information exactly?

    7. A computer programming tutor

    Kept insisting that to get hired to write code I should write code and stop theorizing about how to write code.

    8. An industrial/ organizational psych professor

    He sang operas in the halls of the faculty office building (excellent acoustics) and told us to spend time every day lying down in a dark, quiet room thinking.

    9. 6th Grade

    She said to our class (apparently containing a few con artists), "I understand your frustration with looking up word definitions. You look up the word's definition, but there's a word in that definition that you don't know. So you look up that word's definition, and that definition has a word you don't know, and on and on. I get it."

    I have to admit my ignorance on philosophical notions of ‘’meaning’’ and ‘’definitions’’, but the experience made me think, then and now. What makes a good definition? Are our definitions biased by the function we want them to serve or our values or our experience? Are mathematical definitions 100% clear and precise? If we have better definitions of words in our minds could we write and communicate more clearly with each other? Plato asked for lots of definitions : What is truth? What is justice? What is the good life? Wouldn’t it be great to have clear definitions of those things?

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