Want to Learn? Make sure your Teacher is Passionate about the Subject!

I was listening to a podcast today that featured an interview of Tim O’Reilly (a famous technology book publisher). At the end of the conversation the interviewer, Steve Hargadon, asked Tim if he had any advice for students. Tim’s advice rang true to me. I wish someone had given me this advice as I was going through High School and University:

My best learning experiences were with teachers who were excited and passionate about their subject. Ask around your school to find out who are the most exciting and passionate teachers. When you find that list, go take their course, it does not matter what it is. – Tim O’Reilly

The best grade I received in my University career was in Probability & Statistics 151. Before taking that class I has consistently done poorly to average all my math related courses. Stats 151 was different. It was different because the professor was excited about the subject, and had a knack for using interesting gambling and farm examples to help illustrate concepts as he taught the class (some of the farm examples were a bit off the wall). Inspired by the “A” grade I received in his class I took one more statistics course, and with a more average teacher, I received a more average grade.

So I repeat the advice from Tim O’Reilly:

Find out who the best teachers are at your school (or in the faculty if you’re at a University), and then take classes from those teachers, no matter what the subject!

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