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A good teacher lets his students know something about himself. Not excessively, and certainly not to fulfill a need, but because there is pedagogical value in doing so: people learn better if they understand the person who is teaching them. So you have to let your students know who you are. (The reverse is obviously also true: you have to be interested in who they are!)

This week in my introduction to things Canadian – hockey, the Maple Leaf, snow – the canoe came up. So I told my students about the canoe I built in St. Thomas some thirty years ago. And how my love for the canoe stretched back to when I was a kid and had learned to paddle in Algonquin Park. I told them of the waterfall where the mighty Magnetewan enters a chute only five meters wide where three fellow teachers and I nearly lost our boats and our lives.

I told them about taking my kids out for camping trips when they were small and how they had come to understand and share my love for Canada’s natural beauty. Then I told them that I had given my boat away when we had come to Malaysia, and how I missed it. They gave a collective “aww.”

But I think the lesson had more of an effect on me than them, and I left class mulling over what I had said. Unlike the guitar, my canoe is irreplaceable. I don’t have the knowledge, tools or space to ever build another one. Nor will any canoe I ever buy replace the memories of that particular craft. But there’s the consolation, isn’t it? For I have the memories of all those wonderful trips with family and friends, and they too are irreplaceable.

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