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  • Writer's pictureolivershearman

Authentic teaching - being yourself to be inspirational

Who was your best teacher? Who inspired you to become a teacher? While it is not the case for every teacher, most of us - I believe - have had a teacher that likely inspired them. For me, it was Mrs. Morrison, god rest her soul. She was a truly inspirational science teacher who was nearing the end of her career as a high school science teacher in Australia when I was lucky enough to be in her classroom. She inspired me to go after my dreams of studying science and I have been reflecting recently on why she was quite so inspirational. She wasn’t particularly good at classroom management, she didn’t have a large physical presence or demand attention, but she was patient, kind and really cared about the science she was teaching. She had been a teacher for 25 years before she even taught me.

What made Mrs. Morrison so incredibly inspiring that I became a teacher in the end was her willingness to be herself. To be who she was and share that personality with her students and also her colleagues. It was a wondrous thing and miraculous thing and yet, so easily overlooked in the schema of what makes great teachers truly great.

I still remember her giving me time in the school library to go and do a personal project on black holes despite the requirements of the syllabus because she could see it inspired me. I remember and chuckle, thinking about pure sodium being thrown into a bucket at the front of class and Mrs. Morrison sprinting to the back of the room before the ear splitting pop and splashed the front row of students in the room and we all laughed. Needless to say, she had done this before and learned not to be near the pop, bang and splash that came with this demonstration. So she got our attention in a funny way that suited her.

As I learn to be a better teacher and have more techniques, skills and abilities, I have learned to be myself in the classroom. This has been quite a boon. It has led to deeper relationships with students, their trust in me and that I am honest with them is greater and I enjoy the job more. Sharing stories with students about my personal life - within reason - provides them insight into adult life and gives them more opportunity to connect with me.

Part of being yourself as a teacher is that you can use your own resources and also tweak others you might find to bring students into your lessons. Just the other day I taught students about jungle penguins and discussed the ethics of AI use with them since I found those topics interesting and relevant and so did my students. This topic links with ideas like jokes in the classroom (humor use) which I feel is a natural extension of my teaching (a relevant resource link here).

My final thoughts on this topic are that the great possibility of being a role model by being authentic is a wonderful opportunity. Sharing healthy emotional output, such as admitting you are having a tough day and students should try not to push your buttons today. Even not knowing all the answers and admitting that you don't know something, but you can find out together or at a later time also is a great teaching and learning moment.

I believe you should let yourself out as a teacher. To whatever degree you are willing and feel it is appropriate. It may just make your life easier and your profession a little more enjoyable.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers and stay curious

Oliver - The Teaching Astrophysicist

(Note: This blog post was NOT generated by AI and is conceived, typed and uploaded by a real person.)

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