To be interesting, be interested

Whether we like it or not, teachers need to be interesting. If we are not interesting then there is little or no chance that our students will find us or the material we teach of any interest at all.

But, how do you “become interesting”. Paul Arden, in his brilliant little book called “Whatever you think think the opposite” makes the case that it simply requires you to be interested.

Many of us in this profession trudge the well-trodden path from school to home and home to school. For many, life revolves around school and an unhealthy obsession with how much work there is to do. Sometimes there is even a twisted pride and rivalry around how late people stay at work, who gets in to school earliest and who comes in at the weekend or doesn’t. There is a dangerous assumption that the hardest working teachers are the best teachers.

I have bad news for these people. All those countless hours spent at work may mean they get more done, but may make it much less likely that their students want to learn from or with them. It may make them very dull people who are unlikely to interest, inspire or motivate young people in the slightest.

So, instead of staying behind at work… ask yourself if that task really needs doing or if it will really transform learning. If not, get out of there… go and explore your city, go and take some photos, go and read a good book, go and see a movie, go and meet a friend (who doesn’t work at school!) and talk about life, go to a museum, go and people-watch somewhere, go down that alleyway you’ve always wondered about, enroll in an evening class, eat somewhere you’ve never tried before, go to a market, develop that talent that lies dormant… be interested in the world outside of school.

What you bring back to your classroom – knowledge, curiosity, connections, awareness, compassion, perspectives – will inevitably make you a better teacher.

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7 comments

  1. kathmurdoch

    Hey Sam….what a well timed post (actually – that is often the case with your posts)! I was just having a conversation with a group of teachers today about the power of INTEREST to drive inquiry. When teachers are ‘interested’ (curious, open, fascinated) – it is infectious. We were discussing the challenge of ‘units’ that hold less interest for teachers and the importance of finding a personal connection with the content – showing enthusiasm and delight in new learning. When children feel us genuinely interested in them, their ideas, their learning and our own learning – we help create an inquiry culture. Thanks for your post!

    • sherrattsam

      Hi Kath! I often find it really powerful to “do a unit” alongside my students. This has many effects, but one of the main ones is that the teacher gets a first hand experience of whether or not a unit is actually interesting! I mean, if teachers are likely to find it boring… how do we expect our students to be intrinsically motivated by it?

      • cbeddows81

        Great post and a good one for schools in the Northern Hemisphere who can be coasting at this time of the year, churning our the same tired lessons that ‘worked well’ (!) last year. I love inquiring into a unit with our students. I add my wonderings to the wonder wall and find that having a visible passion for learning really rubs off on the students. Hope to chat again soon buddy. Be well.

        • sherrattsam

          Cheers Chris! Yes, churning out those old lessons is a dangerous trap. Pull out the box, blow off the dust and away we go… but the world has changed since then, the students are all different and we have changed too!

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  3. Stephanie

    It’s like they teach us on airplanes. Adults need to put their own oxygen masks on before helping any kids travelling with them. Outside hobbies and interests is the oxygen we need in order to have meaningful lives. A tired and burned out teacher is not effective in the classroom. Instead of high-fiving workaholism (or at least giving tacit approval through our silence as someone complains about workload) we need to start calling each other out for the email sent at midnight or someone who is in every weekend. Your students need you take a break…

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