I first came upon the above quotation in the foreword to a textbook on oceanography one of my university teachers had written. Matthias Tomczek was his name, and he looked just like Gandalf. In my humble opinion he was an example of a great teacher. Other teachers fell into this category with equal applomb. Dr Leigh Burgoyne : none other than the very same man to discover the structure of chromatin, was such a teacher.
These two men represented high points for me in my time at university. They didn’t cram my head full of numbers and facts. What they did was just talk. And I listened. I remember one lecture in particular, where Dr Burgoyne spoke of the mindboggling string of cosmic and statistical coincidences that led to all of us sitting in that lecture theatre.
All I remember from that lecture was that afterwards when he’d stopped speaking… you could hear a pin drop. Imagined or not, I felt a hush had fallen over everyone as they were digesting some cosmic truth. I’ve read “Wonderful Life”. I understand the concept of contingency. But it was an amazing experience to hear similar ponderings from my own teacher.
That hush is what great teachers bring. Whatever technique they use, they make you stop and think, even if just for a moment. Truth lies in the spaces between points in space and knowledge. Great teachers show this to us. There are loud teachers, quiet ones, rude ones. They can all be great.