09 August 2010

Just one great talk

Suzanne Cory is an esteemed Australian scientist, and in an extensive interview in The Age, she described how all it took was a couple of great encounters with teachers to change her life.

But it was a brilliant biology teacher with a passion for the space race who first sparked Cory’s interest in science in year 9. “She came in the day Sputnik was launched and she was just transfigured with excitement.” ...

(A)nother passionate teacher changed the course of her life. An expert in the genetics of grasshoppers, his lectures were too dry for Cory's taste.

“Then one day he came in and he was a totally different person,” she says. “He was electrified by this paper he’d just read showing that the DNA in every chromosome was a single giant molecule. I think he literally imprinted on me that day a love of genes and DNA.”

Note how neither of those transformational talks are about the usual things we talk about in science classes. The tried. The true. The proven. The stuff done decades, if not centuries, before we were born, never mind our students.

Instead, it’s talking about the things that genuinely excites us, the instructors, that can excite our students.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true: Enthusiasm is contagious.

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