what made me a teacher

This is a re-posting of something I originally wrote for the ‘other blog’ – I thought I’d publish it here too as part of the occasional ruminations by Marcus & me on the subject of science teaching 🙂

Recently I’ve had occasion to reflect on the things that have made me the sort of teacher that I am. (Yes, I know there’s probably some grammatical issue with that sentence!) So I thought it might be good to write them down – for me, as a way of focusing my thinking, & also because maybe it would elicit other points of view. So, here goes…

I believe that behind every good teacher are a whole lot of other people. In my case the people on my list would include:

  • my parents, who encouraged all their children to follow their dreams & who passed on their own sense of wonder & curiosity about the world around us.
  • the inspirational high-school teachers teachers who not only cemented my love for science but also made me think seriously about the prospect of becoming a teacher myself. Mrs White, Mr Withers, Mr East – I owe you a lot. And my own mother, a teacher herself.
  • the then-Principal of Palmerston North Girls High School, Mrs Calvert: after I finished my PhD, I didn’t get a research scientist’s job straight away, so I began to look for alternatives. Mrs Calvert looked at a bright shiny new PhD graduate with no formal teaching experience, & must have seen potential there because she offered me a job as a biology teacher. I did my teacher training on the job, extramurally, and settled into the career that I thought I’d left behind when I began my postgraduate studies.
  • all the enormously supportive colleagues with whom I work, & have worked in the past: fellow high-school teachers, academics & the wonderful staff in our Teaching Development Unit, who let me bounce ideas around & give advice on trying new things, supporting me in taking a few risks.
  • my husband & family – thanks, guys! – who’ve put up with long hours & the seemingly endless piles of marking for quite a long time now.

But ultimately, you can’t be a teacher without students. And I’ve been lucky to have students who don’t seem to have minded being guinea pigs (well, not too much!) when I’ve tried new things, & who’ve been willing participants in the classroom. And that’s been wonderful, because to me the teacher is a learner too, & while my students are (I hope) learning from me, I’m also learning from them.

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