It’s stories about locals risking their lives to save animals from an active volcano or a modest restaurant feeding the poor that restore my faith in humanity. Amidst a slew of tragedies, I became doubtful of the human capacity to do good. I then came across the story of Dr. Richard Overfelt, an 88-year-old professor who helps schoolteachers rediscover their love for educating. And to say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.
“We cover teachers up today with statistics, with data, and testing almost every other day,” Overfelt said. And as a result he says “there isn’t enough time and energy to really teach the kids.”
Excellent point. On the first day of classes at Truman State University, senior professor Overfelt dresses in a clown costume. It’s unusual but hilarious, and nothing like Pennywise from Stephen King’s It. Overfelt teaches educators not just to revise their curriculums, but to relate to their students on a personal level. Looking back at my own academic life, I suppose I can confirm that what made the most impact to me then as a student is exactly what the senior professor tells his successors.
“I teach that if the heart is empty, it doesn’t make any difference how full the head [is],” said Overfelt.
Many have credited him for their decisions to remain in their professions, learning how to better educate and, in the process, have fun. Which leads me to say this… Maybe I ought to commission a therapy session with Dr. Overfelt on demotivating Mondays.