My Favorite Teacher

My memory is bad. Absolutely, horrifyingly, devastatingly bad. Oftentimes, I wonder if I have dissociative amnesia that happens to flare up on a regular basis. Or, if, every so often, I receive a blow to the head that knocks out all my memories. Either way, I only vaguely remember the style and techniques of this particular professor. I remember the class was mostly lecture in format, we had three tests, and many trees were killed for the amount of handouts he gave us. But, what I do remember, what I am certain that I remember, is that he made learning statistics fun. Or, as fun as learning statistics could be.

I have never been a “math person”. It is one of the reasons for why I went into psychology. I knew math was involved, but it was crunched using a computer, so I would never have to do it, or even see it being done. Nevertheless, I feared the math of psychology, statistics, a required course. The first day of class, all I felt was impending doom. I equate the feeling to what I imagine of small fish near hungry sharks or my dogs near my vacuum. It was not a pleasant wait until class started.

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A picture of me on the first day of class. (Emotional interpretation required.)

But, I will always remember his opening statement to the class (a paraphrase, as I don’t remember his exact words): “Statistics is your friend. He’s awkward, but he is your friend.” And, although I did not believe it at the time, he was right. Through that class, statistics became my friend. My professor sprinkled lectures with funny examples, simple metaphors, and true empathy. Knowing the daunting (and dreary) nature of statistics, my professor broke it down step-by-step, detail-by-detail, mouse click-by-mouse click. Even though I wish I could remember more about my professor’s teaching (just one or two illustrative anecdotes would be nice – but all that exists is static), I do believe I have held onto the important piece. He made statistics so easy that it became fun. So I learned a great deal. Sure, I was not competent, but I was confident.

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A picture of me on the last day of class. (Emotional interpretation required.)

And, with that confidence, built from my professor’s class, I read one of the largest statistics books known to man (Field’s Discovering Statistics – which I highly recommend) and taught my own statistics class when I became a graduate student. My opening statement for my own class? “Statistics is your friend. He’s awkward, but he is your friend.”

Until next time: bye!

4 thoughts on “My Favorite Teacher

  1. It’s great to meet you, Tess. I enjoyed Field’s statistics book when I had to read it last semester for a stats course I took with the Marketing department (though he does have a tendency to drone on about some things, I enjoy his examples and he explains most things quite nicely). I’m glad your professor taught you not to fear statistics. I remember hating having to take it in undergrad (becuase everything up to hypothesis testing I had learned previously), but I really started to enjoy it when I took regression (and that class was at 7:30 in the morning, so that might have something to do with it) and then had my first stats course at Alabama with Dr. Berrett.

    Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. It’s great to read your post (I love the pictures) and I look forward to meeting you in person soon!

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  2. Tess, your story is such a great example of what the best educators are able to accomplish. Not only did your professor rid you of your paralyzing fear of the dreaded required math course, he actually converted you to a statistics lover! The way you describe the content being delivered reminds me of an Albert Einstein quote, “If you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough yourself.” When a professor knows their content so well that they are able to break it down to the molecular level and create easy to understand metaphors and anecdotal connections to real life, learning becomes a byproduct of the enjoyable experiences one has during class. This is such a hard environment to create, but the best educators are able to make it look easy. It’s not. I’m sure you likely know that from your own experience teaching statistics. I like the visual aids, by the way. Visual aids are always helpful!

    – Matthew

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  3. Tess, what a great story! Statistics scare me. I had a bad experience with it in college. It is intimidating, but I hope to overcome that fear one day soon.

    See you in class next weekend!

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  4. Hey Tess, Nice to meet you. Loved the pics in your post. And the quote is great. Thanks for sharing. Look forward to working with you this term!

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