You the Person, You the Teacher

Tim StephensonBlog, Connect Better, Reflect Better, Teach Happier


  • Discover who you are as a person, then discover who you are as a teacher.
  • To determine what kind of teacher you are, first determine what your passion is. Offer up the gift of being likable. And be vulnerable with your students.

I’d like to take a moment or two of your time to reflect on some things that have been happening in my life as a teacher.

I can hardly believe that as this wholly unique school year is reaching the midpoint, I am halfway through my 28th year!  I am now looking forward to a very small fraction of years of being in the classroom compared to that which has passed.

But I do not intend to ride off into the sunset with my hat pulled low over my eyes.  That has never been my style. And I know that the years ahead need to be filled with generating more opportunities to help out in the world of education. My greatest desire has been and always will be to help people succeed and to provide them with opportunities to discover their strengths.

A lot of my thoughts recently have been focused on teachers and the fine art of teaching.  What a great profession we enjoy.  What a privilege it is to influence the future.  And what better time is spent than looking at these students and picturing them 10 or 20 years from now, and what they will be doing because of what we as teachers started for them at school.

Ten years from now, twenty years from now…what will THEIR world be like and how will you help them be ready for it? Click To Tweet

If I weren’t teaching, I honestly don’t know what I would be doing with myself.

I’ve spent so many years seeking out new and fascinating information, and I doubt I’ll stop.  I can picture it now!  I’ll get up in the morning and read about something that is happening…maybe a new discovery in space, an advancement in some genetic technology, or a new source of renewable energy. And I’ll have nobody to tell about it.  I may just end up walking down the street, find the first person, stop them and say, “have you heard about this?!”

That’s the sort of thing I’ve done my whole career.  It has been so much fun and so many fascinating things have happened as a result.  I’ve met people, got involved in research, managed some amazing after school projects, and poured my time and energy into young people.  That’s what we all can do as teachers!

So if my time was not being used in a classroom, what then?  Teachers college?  Offer up professional development?  What does a teacher do if they aren’t teaching?  Maybe blog about my experience?  Well, I can start right here and give you some advice after almost three decades of teaching.

Number one, figure out who you are as a person.  Number two, figure out who you are as a teacher.

Let me describe the first one a bit.  To determine what kind of person the teacher is, I’ve found that you need to do three very important things:

  1. Determine for yourself the one thing that breaks your heart or moves you to action.  Figure out your passion area.  It’s going to be the topic that you love to learn about and then share with your students your love of learning.  And to make it even better, start an after school club with others who are passionate as well and just see what you can create together.
  2. While you are teaching and in your classroom, don’t seek the reward of being liked by your students; rather, offer up the gift of being likable.
  3. Be involved in life.  Sleep outdoors, hike in the dark, volunteer your time, enter a race, read some books.  And when you do these things, show some vulnerability and share some of your experiences with your students and let them know you, too, are human.
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That second piece of advice?  To determine what kind of teacher the person is, here are a couple of reflections.

Have you actually taken an entire weekend away to formulate and write out your pedagogy, your educational values, your reason for teaching?

Why are you a teacher?  What do you want to accomplish in your role?  What will you teach that will have lasting value?  How will the students remember you and for what will they return and thank you?

If you haven’t, then I highly recommend you do!  Get away to a place where you will not be disturbed and walk for a while in the fresh air.  Envision the future being affected by the young minds that you are influencing.  Ten years from now, twenty years from now…what will THEIR world be like and how will you help them be ready for it?

And lastly, your students may not remember everything that you taught them.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer them an experience that is memorable.  Happy teaching everyone!

About Tim Stephenson

Tim has been teaching in Langley, British Columbia for over 25 years. He’s a science teacher, particularly astronomy, which is a course he has developed into a full credit senior science course. In his school, he is known as AstroStephenson. Way back at the beginning of his teaching career, he wrote a book, really to himself, that contained his teaching philosophy. It was a project that would define his career. He is a possibility thinker, a dreamer and a doer, an innovator.

From the very beginning, he knew that he wanted to teach by putting students and relationships ahead of content, and putting experiences and emotions ahead of curriculum. The result has been a long career of rich and rewarding experiences for both himself and his students, the pinnacle being in 2018 when he was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

Now Tim would like to share with you his thoughts and experiences on teaching with the hope that by reflecting better, you will feel empowered to try new things, teach in new ways and see the possibilities that are there for all of us in the teaching profession.