Teaching Styles: Polar Opposites

Featuring Talley and Willis

November 4, 2021

Nick Talley wearing a bright neon outfit for AGHS 80s day.

Jeremy Slayter

Nick Talley wearing a bright neon outfit for AGHS 80’s day.

More traditional teachers often get criticized by students for not being fun. Christine Willis, who teaches expository reading and writing subscribes to the idea of a more rigid teaching style.

“I’m not interested in fun. I don’t like fun,” Willis said.

Willis’s mentality gives her a reputation for being an authoritarian teacher, and she is okay with that, as she believes a firm hand is the only way to instill self-discipline. Students need to be disciplined by others before they are able to discipline themselves; a skill necessary for success.

“I just want them to do what they need to do,” Willis said. 

On the other side of the scale is Nick Talley, a life science, chemistry, and ASB teacher. Talley describes his teaching as “thoughtful, lighthearted, relatable, and fun.” 

Talley considers a loose teaching style as the best way to reach students and encourages them to get involved.

“If I make myself uncomfortable, then the kids can be more vulnerable,” Talley said.

Talley is a firm believer in a lenient teaching style but does admit that it has its issues.

“The looser you are, the grayer the line is [and] they’re not really sure where it is,” Talley said.

But Talley doesn’t necessarily think a student crossing the line is a bad thing. When a student gets too out of control, Talley uses it as an opportunity to build relationships with the students through a heart to heart. 

“[Discussion] builds rapport and relatability,” Talley said.

But a more traditional teaching style doesn’t rule out the possibility of creating strong student/teacher relationships, after all, Willis had a very strong relationship with her university English teacher, the teacher that inspired her teaching style. Willis still keeps in touch with many former students as well and hopes to be an inspirational teacher to her students, like the teachers she learned so much from.

Talley was also influenced by former teachers, not just through his teaching methods, but also by forming his love for chemistry, a subject he had no interest in before their classes. 

“I like chem because of [my chem teachers],” Talley said.

“My chemistry teacher, she was this New Jersey teacher [who was] super goofy. She wore slippers and a robe on the first day of school and pretended she didn’t know [that there was school].”

Her influence is clear, as Talley always participates in the school spirit days, dressing up in full hockey attire, bright neon clothes, and many other fun outfits. 

Another chemistry teacher, Mr. Harper was also a huge influence on Talley.

“Super nerdy guy, but also kinda goofy, and a little loose. I just connected with him very well,” Talley said.

Despite drastically different approaches to teaching, Talley and Willis both achieve similar results, being able to connect with students and encouraging them to fully explore the subjects they’re learning. It really just comes down to preference, as students are going to connect more with the teachers they see themselves in, just as Talley and Willis both once did with their former teachers.

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