Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In Praise of Mentorship...

As my previous post suggested, I've been struggling with staying focused and engaged in my English classes this semester.  I hate this of course, because it means I'm not using my tuition money wisely, I feel like I'm wasting my time, I don't feel inspired by literature anymore, and I feel sort of bad about myself for turning in less-than-polished papers to my professors.  But I finally figured out why I have lost interest in school.

I miss my brilliant professors from last semester.  Two in particular--Hutch and Dr. Walker.

Both professors teach literature through the lens of the Bible which I have come to love.  I think Hutch has brainwashed me to read the way he reads.  Typically, I'd resist against a professor telling me how to read, but I've been fully converted to his style.  I took 3 classes from him about American Literature and how the Bible informs those texts.  Hutch was a hard professor.  Lots of C's on my papers.  Lots of harsh criticism.  Lots of frustration that first semester.  But when it comes down to it, I don't think I've ever had a professor take so much time individually with his students to improve their writing and thinking skills.  Not only was Hutch the type of professor who cared about his students, but his classes were inspiring.  The days were far and few between that I walked out not wanting to share what I'd just learned or thought about in his lecture.  Probably my favorite class he taught was all about autobiographies of early American people.  His discussions about the religious revival in America in the early 1800's clarified a lot about Joseph Smith and the beginning of our Mormon heritage for me.  Hutch had a way of challenging our previous notions, pushing us to think further, and bringing the Spirit to Literature.  

Dr. Walker teaches the Bible as Literature.  He's been teaching here for like 40 years or something insane, but he's the nicest man you've ever met.  He teaches the Bible as if it's a collection of short stories that we have the ability to unpack.  We talked about different ways of looking at Samson and Delilah, King David, Jonah, etc.  While his class sometimes bordered on sacrilegious, I really genuinely feel that his classes brought me closer to God.  I read the Bible with a vigor I've never had before.  I think in the LDS culture we are "biblically illiterate" (as Hutch says), and I'm grateful Dr. Walker gave me the skills to look at the bible differently than ever before, and embark on familiarizing myself with it.  

These two professors have helped me understand that if you're looking for Literature to blow your mind--Find the biblical allusions and think about the implications.  

Anyway, how does this relate to me losing motivation this semester?  None of my professors (with the exception of my Shakespeare Senior capstone course professor) challenge my thinking or help my mind expand and grow with every novel we read.  I don't think it's their fault, I just really miss the confidence I had that Hutch and Dr. Walker's classes would consistently have me exhilarated and motivated to go research on my own to find new applications for the literature to my life.  

I think the main difference is that both of these professors were mentors, not just teachers.  They obviously taught me well, but they also spent the time to personally get to know me, my writing, and my thinking.  They'e clearly in this profession to help influence people's lives--not just to be known as BYU professors.  


  1. It's truly a blessing to have a mentor/teacher--someone who opens your mind and changes you never to be the same again. they are few and far between, but life altering. So happy you got to experience this.

  2. I love this post. You should let them read it. As a teacher... this would thrill me.

    Haha I forgot about this until just now, but I actually wrote a blog about Professor Walker too! http://sierralr.blogspot.com/2010/09/selectric.html

    Yours is way more thought provoking however, so don't expect genius.