What makes an inspirational teacher?

Following this weeks #riddlemethised slow chat on inspiration I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what makes an inspirational teacher, how to feel inspired and how to make learners feel inspirational. A lot of this thinking was inspired by the interactions on the chat and I’m grateful for people being so open and sharing their thoughts.

What makes an inspirational teacher?:
Passion: There was a lot of dialogue about passion and I really buy into this. Personally I imagine that being a teacher without a passion for your subject, education, changing young people’s lives and learning would be a long hard slog. I love what I do and I couldn’t work with the intensity required with a teachers workload if I didn’t have that passion. Do the students notice? I hope so, but it may not be the passion itself they notice but the things we do because of it. We’re all different stylistically, however I like to think that passion drives the overwhelming majority in education to do the special things we do.

Challenge: For me it was the teacher that asked powerful questions and questioned everything who created challenge in our lessons. The idea of creating opportunities for students to achieve more than they thought possible inspires me; I’d like to think it has an impact on them too. Growing their self esteem through increasing their abilities and knowledge is a worthy goal.

Relationships: Sometimes students are inspired by the feeling that their teachers genuinely care. Showing you care is such a simple thing to do. Smiling, saying hello in the corridor, paying an interest in what they have to say, all easy ways to show it. Showing you care about what they achieve is the other part of this; that their grades matter to you because they represent their learning and growth, not just seeing them as data.

Reality: Different things inspire and motivate different people. If it were simple everyone would be enthused all the time. I believe that passion, challenge and relationships are important pieces of the puzzle, but not the whole solution.

Importance of being inspired:
Unless we’re the worlds greatest actors creating enthusiasm, motivation and inspiration requires us feeling special too. The biggest sources of inspiration in our discussion were the students and our colleagues.

So many of us feel inspired when we see the learners working hard to achieve their goals, or in those special moments in class. I thinks it’s fantastic that the students themselves inspire us as educators; it’s reassuring that our focus is on the right thing.

The other big inspiration noted was our colleagues; whether in our schools, at Teachmeet events or on Twitter we’re fortunate to have so many opportunities to share our ideas and enthusiasm with each other. Sharing within our schools and networks has always been possible but the digital communication available makes sharing beyond our traditional boundaries normal for so many of us.

Making the learners feel inspirational:
The concept that it’s about making the learners feel inspirational rather than us came from @andydalziell. (Sadly the # hasn’t recorded this, hence the personal mention as the rest are on the Storify below.)

This raises the challenge of creating ways to make students feel inspirational. This takes on two aspects for me; the development of Mindsets and creating meaningful learning experiences.

By the development of Mindsets I’m referring to Carol Dweck’s work in this field. The main idea being if we perceive our intelligence as something which can be changed and developed we will change our commitment and actions. @Pekabelo shares some fantastic ideas for developing Growth Mindset here.

Learning experiences are much clearer; by creating meaningful learning opportunities to develop our learners in a broader sense. Such as making lessons special, immersive learning experiences, school trips or special responsibilities such as prefects or digital leaders. I wrote about the idea of making school special in this way here last month.

The Storify of the #riddlemethised slow chat which is the source of many thoughtful contributions I reflected on is here: http://sfy.co/st7M

If you’d like to write a post about inspiration and teaching on @pedagoo click on the link here:- http://www.pedagoo.org We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE


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