Recently I attended a British Council seminar with Dr Martin Lamb exploring the qualities and practice of inspiring teachers, and English language teachers in Indonesia and China in particular. The talk was incredibly interesting not only because of my fascination with everything to do with teaching and learning English, but because I got that extra little space to reflect on my own experiences and schooling. We were asked to think about a teacher who inspired us to develop a real passion for their subject or to be where we are right now. I will move on the teachers who inspired me, but bear in mind that there is an after-story as to how that relates to my PhD…
Did you have an ‘inspiring teacher’ at school?
A teacher who changed the way that you felt about a subject such that you put much more effort into learning it over the years?
The first teacher who really inspired me and made me passionate about a huge aspect of what I do now was my first English language teacher in high school. She contributed massively towards my positive attitude with English and developing my motivation to get better and better. Initially, when I started studying English in middle school, I used to hate it – it was not logical, it was difficult and the disparities between spelling and pronunciation made no sense to me… Having said that, look at me now! Massive jump to living and working in an English-speaking country and using the language a fair amount more than I use my first language… if that is not inspiration… What did she do, you’d ask. Well, she cared. She cared about me and every single child in our class. She cared about our day-to-day little troubles, she cared about us being happy before anything else. And she shared her passion, she was always enthusiastic, interesting and engaging, no matter how boring or difficult the particular topic was. She made me passionate about reading and exploring outside of the classroom and she built my confidence as a student but also a person! I am forever thankful to Ms Beleva!
The second story is about a teacher in the broad sense of the word. I was inspired by my supervisor but not so much in doing research as in re-exploring my misconceptions about science as a school subject. My supervisor is a Science PGCE lecturer among other things and early on in my PhD he suggested aspects of science education as an attempt to narrow down my research topic. To this, deep down I got worried. Science was never my subject of preference and I don’t think I ever understood very much of it… But he encouraged me to go into schools and observe, to talk to teachers and children, to challenge my own understandings of what science is. As time has passed by I more and more realise that I am becoming passionate about science in schools, mostly about what children think about it and how they see it, but also in retrospection to my own experiences where I felt almost excluded for not grasping the basics. I know now that science is fun and I can understand it, at least the basics, I read about the teaching and learning of science and I sometimes check updates about the science departments at uni – again major leap in my confidence and growth as a person.
English and Science coming together
Interestingly enough, my PhD topic brings aspects of both those subjects together. I realised that last night while listening to Dr Lamb. Then I thought it must be a coincidence… But is it? Is it not the fact that I have been inspired by two amazing teachers to do what I do now, to care and be passionate, to believe that learning is a life-long process and to pursue the best of me through my research work? I think so!
The question is back to you. Did you have an inspiring teacher? What did they inspire you to achieve? You don’t have to share, just think about it, I guarantee it will brighten up your day!