What A Teacher Does

Earlier this morning, we were listening to the radio on the way to work while the hosts were discussing teachers that have been inspirational. Jokingly, I texted them that Terrence Fletcher (played by the incredible J. K. Simmons) from the movie Whiplash had inspired me. They actually read that little text on the air and we laughed about how we had effectively trolled a radio station.

Truth be told, it wasn’t entirely a joke.

For as long as I have been a student, there have been teachers in my life that have pushed me to my limits- not to the extent of verbal and physical abuse as Fletcher does to Nieman in the film. But they have made me question the conventional methods of doing things in how they presented themselves as unlikable or unapproachable.

I don’t know, maybe I react better to this type that challenges me.

So. I don’t like to talk about this story because it isn’t something I’m very proud of, but in the spirit of teacher’s day and those who have made us who we are, here it goes.

As a graduate student in the Netherlands studying Healthcare Policy, Innovation, and Management, one of the courses I had to take was called Patient Logistics. I thought, wow this should be easy, this is interesting. The course also had a very interesting project where we used computer modeling to improve the efficiency of a clinic based on the theories taught in the class.

At the same time, I was taking it with a class called Healthcare Policy that was taught by a professor who had a weird accent I could not understand and the course focused on the Dutch model that I was unfamiliar with. Naturally, I was having a very hard time and chose to focus my energy on this material.

When exam time came around, I went to the logistics test having brushed over the material because “Bro, I got this. We did great on the project.” I did spent most of the time looking around the exam hall and singing in my head. On the other hand, for the policy test, I studied my butt off and went with the sole purpose of getting done with that test.

And you know what happened? I failed the logistics test. It turned out to be very difficult and at least half of the class didn’t do well.


So we scheduled a meeting with the professor to see what we had done wrong and how we could maybe bypass this period in our lives.

Now our professor Siebren isn’t exactly who you would describe as friendly. Middle aged, graying, Dutchman who we barely saw smile. On that day, one girl emerged from his office crying. I went in with a tad hint of confidence, trying to bargain my grades, hunting for any error he could have made while correcting. But he wouldn’t have it. He shot me down and said I would have to sit for the retest. Everyone else did too because the university saw no fault in his exam.

And the retest I took. Oh and I failed it again.

This time, I was more focused on my Berlin trip on the same day. I went to his office once again, and this time, I was the one that came out crying. He wouldn’t tell me what I did wrong, he wouldn’t tell me what to focus on studying, he wouldn’t even tell me when there was a next re-test. That made me severely anxious because of visa issues and the need to return home during a certain time. He would only say “read.”

I managed to successfully petition to have my exam two months before I was scheduled to leave the Netherlands so I began to study the course like I was taking the exam for the very first time. I printed out all the lectures, photocopied all the pages in the recommended books, even watched a short film about one of the topics.


And I finally passed- with a very good grade! It took me six months, but I got there eventually.

Three years after this, I still remember every single thing on Patient Logistics and the theories like Lean, Six Sigma, the Toyota Model- and I apply them every day at work. In fact, they are the only thing I took away from my Masters program. And I couldn’t be more thankful for Siebren and his methods.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had amazing teachers in school and during my Bachelors. Anyone that had something to say and said it well left an impact on my life. I cannot ever forget the teachers that encouraged me to write by reading what I had to say. Or those that taught me to be more attentive, or to like subjects I never thought I would. I’m truly proud to call myself their student. Whether they were strict or super sweet, they succeeded in making a difference and making me a better person.

So on the occasion of Teacher’s Day, I’d like to say a special thank you to all these teachers. Thanks to a few friends of mine that went into Education, I now appreciate every teacher a lot more.

I don’t know how you do it guys, waking up every morning to face a class of the future generation, who are more interested in their iPads than what’s in the books.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. AhmadF says:

    What if their books are on their iPads?! 😉

    1. TK says:

      Exception not the rule…

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