As a student, either in Canada or in Greece later on, or in university after that, I have been lucky in the fact that I have had a lot of teachers and professors whom I remember very fondly. This happened for the reason that they were great people and educators, and that they encouraged students to build on their inclinations and even in subjects where they sometimes struggled, to try hard and believe in themselves.
I remember in university having a tough time with Sociolinguistics. I really loved listening to our lecturer, and participating in class discussions (sometimes, as I usually hesitated to contribute, as I thought I would say something silly) and reading the material, but I still felt I was barely keeping my head above water.
One day, our professor asked us a question and I thought whether I should raise my hand and answer. Better not, I thought. You will probably say something and embarrass yourself in front of so many people (it was always a full house with this woman – she was such a great educator in many respects!). So some students were waiting to answer with hands raised. Suddenly I saw her turn to me. “You!” she said loudly. “You over there.” I was petrified with fear, I am sure I turned red as well. “I want you to answer.” And she came right in front of me (I always sat in the front row). “Well?” she said. So I answered in a low voice and she said: “Right. Look what you have done. First you don’t want to answer at all. Then you whisper your answer, you have deprived the class of a great opinion! And everyone’s opinion counts in here!” she boomed. (Even when she was praising us, she did it in a very loud tone.) “I learn from you too, you know!” and she gave us all big smile. “If you hesitate to anwer me once more”, she told me (in her loud tone again), “I’ll come over there and stand in front of you until you let it out! Got it?” and then she winked at me.
I cannot tell you that from that day on that Sociolinguistics became one of my favourite courses. I just loved studying it and yes, taking part in class conversations. I just had not given myself the chance up to then to see what I could do. I thought that I could not understand the complex notions. So what if I gave the wrong answer? I would learn from someone else. Needless to say, that was another day when I decided that if I ever became a teacher, I would never give up on any student of mine. And to this day, I have not.