Who was your most influential teacher? Why?

Today’s prompt

I liked today’s prompt. In life we often have many teachers and mentors, and we tend to forget what they might have contributed to the path we have chosen. Sometimes these are real teachers, educated to educate. Quite often, they are parents, trying to teach you the ropes of life, and although they may have the best intentions, I think the most important lessons come from the places where they mess up. Sometimes, teachers may just be random wise people that are not really out to educate anyone, but incidentally and unintentionally may share their wisdom with you. Diffused learning can be very important.

I have a bunch of them that made me change my life path, often very unintentional. I’ll list five that I think mattered a lot in my life path. I’ll leave out names. You’ll recognize when you know them.

Biology – I used to be great at two things in school. Biology and French. No clue where the French came from. It’s now quite rusty, but I was easily conversational by the end of high school. I had a couple of teachers I got along with, among an ocean of teachers that would bury me alive. They were all French or Biology teachers. One in particular was motivating to me, because he recognized my passion for certain aspects of biology (such as reptiles). This teacher was disliked by most, but somehow we got along, and he always managed to nudge me in a positive way, particularly about reptiles, but about biology in general. He wasn’t necessarily nice, or close to me. However, he did show me that I had something I was good at. I think it played a role in my choice to study biology.

Insects – My first lecture in biology was for an introductory course in 2006. The lecturer wore a shirt covered in insect print, and I thought it was pretty funny. I never really thought much about insects. My mind was with reptiles. I remember sitting next to what’s now still one of my best friends. We had only just met a couple of days before. During the lecture, he told me he wanted to be an entomologist, and he kept on giving me all kinds of fun facts on insects. At the time I probably didn’t even know what entomology meant. This first insect lecture was a bit of an eye opener that immediately grabbed my attention. Insects never really left. My friend never became an entomologist. But I was hooked. I followed many courses on insects in the years after, and all my theses were insect-oriented.

The bitch – The bitch was a particular colleague I had in the year after finishing my bachelor. I didn’t have life in the rails. I felt miserable almost all the time. I had decided that I was simply unsuitable for studying. My bachelor was rough. I ended up working many side jobs, only to conclude that with a Bachelor in biology, you will not get anything more prominent than shitty side jobs. Many colleagues were interesting. But this one lady, she was a couple years younger than me, but really the most arrogant bitch I have ever encountered. I have no other words for her. Ugh. She bossed everyone around like she owned the place. And particularly, she was very keen on pointing out how unsuitable I was for – well – anything really… She was a person that was regularly described by people as a bitch, because she was. And she was proud of it too. One day she felt the need to point out this low in life that I was currently in, was probably going to be my high, because I wouldn’t be able to stay in the company. The contract was temporary. And I couldn’t finish a study anyway. She pointed out a couple of reasons and it pissed me off. During lunch I signed up for a master’s degree at my old university. What she didn’t know, is that she taught me to stand up for myself z and that I was worth more than I thought (and she clearly also thought). What a bitch. But it was the slap in the face I needed at the time. It changed life’s directions.

Supervision – I’ve been blessed by having had great supervisors throughout my bachelor’s and master’s theses, and my PhD. They taught me via different methods and styles. Some styles I liked, some I didn’t. All of it taught me vital skills. I will not spend too many words. They were important every step of the way, and a reason I still work in academia. My current employer is also in a way a teacher, but more in the passive sense. I’ll pick what I like, and avoid what I dislike in his methods and style. It counts.

You can’t – I’ve heard a few to many times that ‘you can’t‘. This was meant in the sense that I was not suitable for the task at hand. This has been true at work. The bitch was a bit like that too. But there have been others. Many others. There are still many others that tell me I can’t, or that my ideas are silly. I’ve been laughed at so many times here in Germany since I moved here. Laugh all you want. I’ll prove you wrong. The more you tell me I can’t, the more I’m driven to make things work. These people don’t want to teach. They’re essentially bullies. But nothing is better than beating a bully. I love it anyway.

Therapy – I’ve had a bunch of therapists. Most of them only for short periods. My most recent one has taught me much about myself and my mind’s workings, that he may be one of my most important teachers. He changed my perspective on so many things, from work, to social, to family life. It’s great to have a teacher like that. Someone that invokes paradigm shifts in your brain. It’s great.p

Little teachers – Raising my kids taught me more than anything. Doing so together with my wife has taught me a lot, about raising kids, but also about myself and perhaps also about our relationship. It’s a nice lesson to learn that you’ve found the right person to take on this challenge with. I’m grateful for this every day.

Think about it. Life has so many teachers. It’s good to think back and appreciate all the lovely people, and complete assholes that taught you important life lessons. I for one enjoyed writing about it.

Hopefully someday I’ll end up on someone’s list 🙂

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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