Thursday, April 10, 2008

Professor Paulston

This is not my usual blog theme but it's about the power of teaching and I needed to speak to it.

Yesterday, April 9, we held wonderful ceremony in the School of Education, Pitt, to honor and remember one of our fallen lecturers Professor Emeritus Rolland Paulston, who died from leukemia two years ago. What a tremendous experience it was as past students and his colleagues tell their stories about him and their interaction with him. We had asked for students with stories who could not make it to send them in , We had stories from China, Finland, Dominica, Nigeria, South Africa, and all over the US. It demonstrated the power of the influence of a teacher and reminds me that teachers should never take their jobs lightly and its not about the money. It's about influencing lives. There were real tears from students who did not get to say goodbye and who recalled the unflinching support he gave during their dissertations. He loved students voices. He always wanted our points of view on what we read and discussed and he was the master social cartographer. He mapped ideas, thoughts, discourses and debates and in so doing he mapped minds and that is why he became a master at shaping them. He knew them and so he knew how to make them. Yesterday, you should have seen those minds he shaped. As a policy analyst, meta-discursive mapping became useful as I trying to develop options for responding to policy problems in education, understanding first, the thinking and ideas of policy makers. Once I approximated these, it became easy to structure my approach in sync with their ideas and thoughts. It worked every time - seeing the world thought the eye of others and with other text. Simple but he made it powerful. I was pleased to know that his work is being taught in Harvard and UCLA. That says something about Pitt, doesn't it (this is me, gloating). Dr. MCClure reminded me "he was influential because he was compassionate" This is what every student needs "a teacher with compassion." He taught me during his final semester prior to retirement in 1999 and I said to him, that "he would never really retire because parts of him that he had passed on to his students would remain to be passed on to generations and so who is and what he stood for will live on. It was like Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, 1986 said, " I touch the future, I teach."

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