Teaching Indirectly: What I've learned from Dr. Thuerer

My section of PSY-496: Abnormal Psychology will be the last time it will be taught at The College of Idaho, at least for some time. Our Psych Department has updated its catalog and it is scheduled to be replaced for next year. With my graduation application being accepted, I’m finishing my second and last class with Dr. John Thuerer.

“Where are my seniors?”, is one of Thuerer’s favorite questions to ask in virtually every lecture that he gives each year. He’ll ask the class this, and have us raise our hands. Even though it’s the same joke every week, he’ll tease us about the psychosomatic disorders that all of us will be developing come May. Thuerer loves to poke most of his students in the eye every once in a while; consistently demanding our attention to the inevitable fact that our lives inside the academic petri dish are temporary.

If Dr. Berger is the students’ communal grandfather, I see Thuerer as our wise-cracking uncle.  A common image I have of him is the position he usually assumes when addressing a class; sitting on a desk, his feet swinging back-and-forth, with a knowing but exasperating smile on his lips. I’ve spent every interaction I’ve had with Thuerer trying to gain an insight into his method surrounding these little games. His air of ease in the way he kids us about the crown source of anxiety and ultimate goal of the undergraduate experience (graduation), has always mystified me.

Thuerer’s specialty is counseling, and all of his classes, whether he’s teaching a section of Social Psychology or Behavioral Medicine, are taught in a way that emphasizes the practical application of psychology to enhance our interactions with those around us. True to his style, PSY-496 places a smaller focus on the aetiology of mental symptoms and more emphasis on how we as individuals can recognize and manage interactions with mental distress. In this way, Thuerer’s classes can be fluid, and at times unstructured. As a junior, this style bothered me, but this fall I’ve been feeling different. Although I’ve broadened my knowledge of psychiatry’s history and consumed books on schizophrenia and psychopathy, I’ve been paying more attention to Thuerer’s asides.

At the College, I’ve been able to see how differently each teacher approaches their topics. In the same way I was frustrated by my inability to pull apart Thuerer’s motivations, his teaching style challenged me. However, as we moved through this class, I think I’ve found a better understanding of what Thuerer is trying to teach. Thuerer has always been a teacher reminding us of our collective future outside of The College of idaho. Certainty is quite often a luxury, and in some ways our daily routine of classes can shield us from the storm of possibility outside our campus. I’ve grown more comfortable with the variation I find in each lecture from Thuerer. Perhaps things will be more clear after commencement, but as I continue crunching through my term papers, I’m grateful for the instruction I’ve received, indirect or not.

- Andrew Moore

Andrew is a senior Psychology student from Boise, ID.