Finding my teaching voice by watching Doctor Who


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!


  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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

Making the grade

I enjoy the company of young people – they like to think. They have cool ideas, they’re off the wall, and down right hilarious. As I’m getting closer to the age of wanting to have a family of my own I find myself looking at the homework of my friend’s children and often times helping with it. In one particular case – my neighbor’s oldest son (who shall be called J) is in the second grade. J is a kind boy who listens well and has a real respect for people who show him respect. I often help J with his homework (which always seems to be freakin’ math) after school because his home situation is less than ideal. The first time we did his homework together he remarked, “Wow, it takes a lot longer to do the assignment with you.” I wasn’t sure what that was. Sure, we usually ended up doing most of the assignment twice – I would let him work through the whole thing on his own, we’d go over the problems that were incorrect, but that didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I make him re-write numbers that were difficult to read and his half-hearted attempts as erasing. In spite of those things I still didn’t think us doing his homework together took much longer than it would take than if he did it with him mom, granny, or CW.

One Monday morning J was outside visibly upset – so I asked him what was wrong. He replied, “I don’t want to do my homework.” Now, the fact that a second grader has homework over the weekend is kind of tripping me out a little bit already, but I can roll with that. So his mom asks me to come in and explain a logic problem to her because she didn’t understand it. While I’m looking at the assignment I notice something strange. None of the handwriting on the assignment is J’s. His mother was doing his homework and her response when I asked, “Why in the world are you doing your child’s homework?” was “So he will get a good grade, but now he will just have to get a bad one.”  – Now you can imagine the look on my face sort of went like this…


Grading systems are dated. We live in a competitive society where getting into colleges, scholarships and fellowships, and getting a job is contingent on a number associated with your grades (GPA is an entirely separate issue which I’m sure I will rant about at some point this semester).  Things are getting competitive earlier and earlier to the point where we’re having parent’s doing children’s homework. Depriving them of the very thing that they are going to school for, an education. And while given our current academic structure grades might be important now, a student’s worth, particularly a child’s should not be so heavily impacted by it. I shouldn’t have to listen to J say he’s stupid because he didn’t get a “check-plus” or a “doggy stamp” on his homework. J is a kind boy who struggles with certain things in school just like any child. J will make it in this world if people continue to build him up, work with him, and teach him. I hope in the future we can reform education so that it isn’t a system of segregation and a bringer of emotional distress. Learning should be fun – not anxiety inducing.

How do we measure knowledge?

Why is examination the measure by which we judge an individual’s understanding of material? I have had this inability to take tests well since I was a child. It’s not to say I’m unintelligent or I can’t have a conversation about the material being covered, what it does say is I am a very poor test taker. I have had classes (some very recently) where examination was the end-all-be-all of performance measurement. Pure memorization of safety principles that can and should be referenced in a manual before it is applied in practice just to be sure you don’t kill anyone by performing addition where you should have been performing subtraction.

Instead why can’t performance by gauged by assignments and discussion with the instructor? I would prefer a challenging take home exam to a standardized in class assessment any day of the week. Sure – it’s more challenging to grade, but students can take more away from something they have had time to sit and reflect on in depth rather than having to cram the material into their heads for an exam that they will forget 15 minutes after they leave the room.

Why can’t knowledge be measured by the ability to carry on intelligent conversation and contribute ideas to the field? Why must so much weight be placed on one task?