Finding my teaching voice by watching Doctor Who

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While trying to think about how I want to teach I happened to be on a Doctor Who kick. Doctor who is about a humanoid alien (Time Lord to be specific) with two hearts, a blue space ship called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) that is bigger on the inside. A biological function of  the Time Lords allows them to change their cellular structure and appearance for  the purpose of recovery following a potentially fatal injury (hence the multiple faces in the gifs below). The Doctor travels through space and time fighting monsters, saving the world, and making friends through out the galaxies.  I realized that Doctor Who sends many great messages. There are a great number of things from Doctor Who that I would like to apply to my every day life as well as to my teaching voice.  Here are the top 6, Allons-y!

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  1. Show compassion
    One of the main themes in Doctor Who is compassion. The Doctor is constantly revealing his heart (both of them) and chooses to show compassion to strangers, friends, and enemies. The rule of compassion seems to be one that the Doctor can’t break. Remember that you were once in the same position as your students, show them compassion like you have two hearts. tumblr_lsel3aoKff1qat9klo1_r1_500
  2. Show humility
    At times the Doctor can be arrogant, but he’s at his best when he is modest. That being said, you aren’t a Time Lord from Gallifrey and you certainly don’t have a TARDIS. Remember to leave your ego in your office (or better yet, at home) when you’re teaching a class.
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  3. Demonstrate morality
    The Doctor always offers those wrong who him a choice. He is one for fairness and justice, but also has a strong sense of right and wrong. Sometimes students will cheat on assignments, slack off, or just have a really rough day. Be compassionate (point 1), but remember to stick to your morals.
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  4. Be weird
    Being weird is cool. Bow ties, fezzes, and Stetsons – are not cool by themselves. Being your quirky self, however, is very cool. Society is good at teaching individuals to mind their place, to keep in line and to conform. Yet I cannot think of a single person who I admire, or who has accomplished anything extraordinary, who was not weird in some major way. Seriously though, be yourself when you’re teaching and don’t try and be anything else, and remember; there’s no point in being grown up if you can’t act childish every once in a while.
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  5. Be clever
    I learned there is no problem in the entire universe that cannot be solved by being clever. There is always a better way to go about something, provided you have the time and resources available to achieve it.
    The War, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors were brought to the last day of the Time War during The Day of the Doctor, an occurrence that should’ve been impossible owing to the fact that the events of the war were time locked.
    Using all his previous incarnations to work out the required calculations, the Eleventh Doctor was able to secure Gallifrey’s future within a pocket universe. He found a different and “better” way to do things and, the Doctor now has the knowledge that his people are still alive and out there somewhere, just waiting to be found and brought back without reigniting the Time War.
    Be clever in the classroom. Its a space for being creative, problems will randomly present themselves. What if your projector stops working and so on. Be an active problem solver, don’t just sit on your heels and wait for things to happen around you.
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  1. Be willing to help and accept help
    The Doctor is a hero, he’s strong, he’s smart and he is obviously someone that the audience look up to. The Doctor is always keen to give help to whoever needs it. The role of the companion is actually to help the Doctor whether by being a friend and being there for him or actually helping him in his plots. Even the Doctor calls on his friends for help when he is in a difficult situation. One particular example is the episode “A Good Man Goes to War” where the Doctor has to call on all of his friends for help.
    Be willing to ask for help when you need it. Your lectures aren’t going to so well? Ask the people suffering through them for advice. Answer all the questions whenever you get them. Don’t be a jerk, you are here to help (in case you forgot, please see point 2). here_to_help
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13 Comments

  1. Well written. I love this list! Thanks for introducing me to Doctor Who…I had not idea who/what you were referring to initially.

    • Tanya, thanks for your feedback. I clarified who Doctor Who is a little more in the opening paragraph. It’s my favorite television show! It’s what I watch when I want to go someplace else, I highly recommend it!

  2. This is indeed a great list. I also love it when we get to claim those influences from “outside” academia. I’m wondering where I get my inspiration from as an academic/ teacher….

    • Thanks for making that fun! I love the connections you made to a non-traditional academic source, and I especially enjoyed the animated gifs. You certainly can learn a lot from movies, and I think you were able to pull together a really solid list.

  3. Alex, I really enjoyed your blog, the connections you make between Doctor Who and the lessons that we should take for being better teaching are informative and spot on. Two of them that resonated with me the most Show Humility and Be Willing to help and accept help:) . I believe it is really important for us to not let our egos come in the way of a process that is larger than ourselves. We should not in anyway hinder learning for our students. Lastly, getting feedback is a key to improving (oneself and teaching) and if I am not willing to get feedback than I should just quit.

  4. Great post! It very entertaining to read yet very informative. You have talked about your teaching style using the game learning technique which I think is awesome. I agree with all your points and I really liked your last point where you mentioned that you should accept help and help other. I believe that teaching is a skill that gets better with practice provided you are willing to accept change and work on yourself. Sorry my comment is short but I need to go start watching Dr. Who!

  5. Hi,

    I also enjoy the fusion that you have with the topic at hand and something you obviously enjoy. This version of example driven explanations is interesting because we can “see” situations in which we can place ourself. We may not be saving the world from the daleks or the cybermen, but you can create an image of a person from the way they present themselves.

    I would wear a fez, except the doctor wears it better.

  6. Hmmm… I wonder which is your favorite doctor… there seems to be an awful lot of Matt Smith in this post 🙂

    Great post, I really like these points. Maybe one more to add to the list is to be flexible. Doctor Who constantly ends up in random places with no clue why he is there but knowing he has a job to do and similarly in teaching, you may need to accept that the plan you had may not be the one that is most beneficial to your students so we should be willing to go with the flow a bit and see what they need.

  7. Loved the list! I haven’t watched the Doctor; I’m very tempted but cannot get hooked in another show right now, maybe after finals… You bring excellent points; I believe it is very important to remember that we were once students too. Great blog!

  8. Ha, that’s a great platform! I too enjoy Dr. Who. One of the things that I see in the Doctor is his willingness to let humans (students) go about their own business until help is really needed. I think that I would have one of my own categories be “To inspire curiosity.” To be more like the Doctor, I would lead by example and help students to go on their own until they needed my help. I recently found out I will get to teach one of my favorite courses in the spring and have been thinking of ways that I could infect the students with my curiosity. Maybe that is more of what Sarah Deel was talking about when she said that she saw an advantage to bringing more or yourself to the class.

    I won’t ask you which Doctor, but what in teaching would be the equivalent of a Dalek?

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