Not Self-Made: Part 2

Q: Who has been your greatest inspiration(s) and why? (cont…)

In my last blog, I talked about my grandmother who was one of the most inspiring figures in my life. Another such figure is Dr. Marjorie H. Eubank – the woman who taught me how to teach.

Marge, as I called her, was an extraordinary person. She had been a school teacher, and had two children, James and Mellie. Mellie was taken by forceps at birth and was badly brain-damaged in the process. Marge was heartbroken, and gave up teaching to provide full-time care for her daughter.

After two years of not leaving the house, and at the urging of one of her friends, Marge went to see a wise man in her town. His name was Captain DeWit, and he had spent many years at sea. To her dying day, Marge never knew if the story he told her was true, but nevertheless, she understood its meaning.

The Captain recounted the tale of an ocean liner, (not unlike the Titanic), that struck an iceberg. In the nursery of the ship were thirty infants lined up in their cribs. As the vessel began to sink, a young mother dashed to nursery where, to her horror, she saw that her baby was the thirtieth baby. Hers was the furthest away and therefore doomed to go over the edge.

In a futile effort to save her child, she let the other twenty-nine perish. Captain DeWit pointed out to Marge that there was no way that this woman could have saved her baby, the thirtieth, but that she could have saved the other twenty-nine. Marge understood. She found the courage to put Mellie into professional care, and she went back to school.

She got her PHD at age fifty, and began to teach college. Even though she was older than other faculty, her thinking was very young. I had a double major in Communications and Theatre, and ended up having five Communications courses with her. I stumbled into her senior level Persuasion class as a shy, awkward freshman. It was my lucky day.

Marge used so many of the teaching techniques that I employ today. She taught by anecdote. She knew that students rarely retained facts unless they were of personal interest. She made sure that everyone in her classroom knew each other’s names. She also used to have us read aloud from the course textbook.

Marge impressed upon me the importance of fairness in the classroom. She taught me the importance of structure. Her philosophy was that students could relax and enjoy class when they knew that there were rules and that no exceptions were made. From Dr. Eubank, I learned that students will either rise or sink to my expectations. Marge could not save Mellie, but she did indeed spend the rest of her life trying to rescue the other twenty-nine.

I was lucky to have been one of them.