Mike Porter, teaching hero

Exceptionnellement, un billet en anglais.

A few months ago, I read that Mike Porter had passed away. I heard about his death only several years after it occurred, because I do not keep myself updated on what happens at the University of Edinburgh anymore, but I still, from time to time, take a look at the news bulletins sent by the University or by its alumni society.

Mike Porter is one of my teaching heroes. The best stuff I do today as a university teacher, I do thanks to crossing paths with people like him.

Ten years ago, early on in my teaching experience, I got to teach some of Mike’s Tutorials in Health and Society, an innovative teaching module that he had set up (with the help of a few others) within the University of Edinburgh College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. Our mission was to teach some social science to first-year medical students1.

Mike supervised the entire process. We had meetings over tea, and were distributed briefing packs. The entire module had been carefully designed and was explained to us via simple yet effective graphs on how the students would be making progress through its components. Mike was adorable, and the rest of the (highly diverse) tutors team was equally great.

The contents of the sessions were even more appealing: we got to organise short role-playing games on topics such as disability and society – how do you organise a household when one of the children has cerebral palsy? – or practical tobacco control – what kind of assistance can you provide to a man with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?2

I still have a folder at my parents’ home with all teaching material from those tutorials. It’s one of those archives that I will keep through the years. It was one of my best teaching jobs ever, and it was all thanks to Mike Porter. He was truly exceptional at his job, and is truly missed.

  1. The students came from everywhere around the globe, with a large batch from Southeast Asia. []
  2. I cite those two sessions from memory. There were many others. []