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Tuesday, March 14 • 12:15pm - 1:00pm
Thomas Ehrensperger: The Wonder of it All (Teaching as Sharing Your Life)

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Nearly four decades of teaching has reinforced for me that one (not the only!) effective model of teaching is that of sharing one's life with these people put in our charge.  I don't mean "TMI" personal details, but rather the passion that propelled us in our own course-related journeys.  I also don't mean this as a daily occurrence, but rather that anecdotes from my life can be meaningfully and purposefully woven, here and there, into instruction in a way that really pulls students in.  

This sharing includes triumph, failure, embarrassment, epiphany, joy, and - perhaps most importantly WONDER. I believe that it's largely the sense of wonder (and its cousins curiosity and awe) that propelled the advance of science in the first place, and can propel our students' learning of it now. I see it so clearly in the third-graders for whom I do planetarium shows every year. Cultivating and nurturing that feeling in these kids is vital. Sharing bits of one's personal story can support that quest.

My perspective on this draws heavily on the feedback I've been getting from many former (some over 30 years ago) students with whom I've reconnected on Facebook. This approach I'd been taking largely unconsciously or just for fun has turned out to be key in having both the attitude and content of my courses "stick" with these "kids" for a lifetime.

My presentation is partly autobiographical (yes, including pictures of me with my science stuff as a kid!), but also includes reflections about wonder by several famous scientists. My goal is simply to be uplifting and maybe plant a seed of openness to similar sharing. Our students face an often troubling and uncertain world. Setting an example of positivity and wonder may now be more important that ever.

Tuesday March 14, 2023 12:15pm - 1:00pm EDT
The LJ