By James M. Jackson
When I graduated college with a math degree and a secondary school teaching certificate, I planned to be a secondary school teacher. I’d bless the unwashed masses of hormone-laden teenagers with my love of algebra, and geometry, and trig, and calculus, and probability and statistics. Best of all, I would imbue them with a love of that sublime universal language of numbers called mathematics. Yeah, right.
Over the years of teaching various classes in actuarial science and contract bridge for intermediate players, I learned I love teaching people who want to learn. But if you don’t care; I don’t care. I would have made a lousy high school teacher. So, in the end graduating a semester early was a good thing.
When teaching high school math or actuarial sciences, I acted as the expert. There were right answers and wrong answers. If I learned anything from the students, it was to discover different ways to present material so people with different learning styles could “get it.”
Contract bridge has its factual aspects, but much of learning to play well involves sharpening judgment skills. I always learn new aspects of the material when I teach it. Often, if I haven’t taught a class in some time, I rediscover things I had forgotten. Student questions often require me to look at a situation from a different perspective, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of the game. I have the privilege of learning from my students—even if they don’t realize it.
After nearly fifteen years of writing novels, a friend asked me to develop a class on revision and self-editing for the Kiss of Death chapter of Romance Writers of America. I’ve continued to update and improve that month-long course and am currently teaching it for the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Invariably, students complete homework in ways I had not expected. Occasionally, their technique is something I want to try myself. More often, their novel approach does not work, and I must help them see that. Knowing something doesn’t work is not the same as being able to understand why something doesn’t work. Preparing the explanation often leads me to deeper insights and understanding of the issue. When that happens, I feel like I should refund their tuition because I’ve received such a marvelous bonus.
I pay them off in thanks and look forward to the next opportunity to teach and learn.
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James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree series. Full of mystery and suspense, these thrillers explore financial crimes, family relationships, and what happens when they mix. Furthermore, a novella is the most recent addition to the series. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.