In support of being weird


August 31, 2021 Ray Suchow, Special to the ATA News

Recently I received a surprise email from a student I had taught in Computers 7 six years ago. I hadn’t seen him in three years, since he transferred to a different school.

As I read his message, the words of this mature young adult interplayed with my memories of the thoughtful young soul who quietly completed his work in my class. He began by saying that his overall school experience had been interesting, as he had learned to deal with being sensitive to others (while others were not always similarly gifted). He felt that he’d been going through a phase back then, and the joy and comfort he’d felt in my class had helped him feel better and learn that he should be his own person.

“I’d like to attribute a decent amount of my success to the way you taught,” he wrote, adding that he’d grown as a person and had just graduated from his current school with honours. Then came the interesting part.

“I didn’t feel weird in your class, because you were weirder.”

Wait! What?

On one hand, it was nice to know that I’d helped somewhat in his schooling and ongoing character development, but on the other hand—what was this about my being weird?

At that time my school was grades 7–12. Computers 7 was the entry course into the entire program, and I’d been happily teaching it for 16 years. I loved that course!

Despite being able to use their personal devices quite adeptly, none of the students had ever been in a lab before, learning in depth about hardware, software and troubleshooting and how to use all of these together in the strange new world of junior high. I tried to make sure that whatever their skill level, they all felt welcome, were ready to learn amazing new things and were set to have some fun while doing so. And away we flew!

As I reflected, the depth of my former student’s message soon became apparent. What I gained from his words was that when we don’t merely teach but rock those classes where we know our best comes out, we might just be helping our students more than we realize. We may think we’re just teaching our favourite subjects in the best way we know, but students might be seeing something different and more inspiring—a teacher who isn’t afraid to combine knowledge, humour, acceptance and outright joy.

And that might come across as weird to students, since they may not have seen that kind of energy before. But this example shows that it made an important difference in one young life, and I bet there are more that I’ll never know about.

So, this year, let’s all try to be a bit weirder in a subject or two! After the year we just had, our students will appreciate it more than ever—now and in the years to come. ❚

Ray Suchow teaches CTS computer studies, religion and humanities at Christ the King High School in Leduc. 

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