A rare breed, that’s what.
They do exist though and they are out there doing their stuff. The thing is, not every school has one.
Defining what an inspirational teacher ‘is’ might sound rather straight-forward but it really isn’t.
These might be vintage teachers with over 10,000 flying hours under their belts but then again it can be a fresh-faced novice who turns a school upside down (in a good way!).
According to some, inspirational teachers are those
who go above and beyond every single day, engaging all students in learning, celebrating uniqueness and diversity, motivating them to succeed, and building their trust and confidence.
I reckon an article written by Neil Ingram is a good place to start the debate though.
In ‘All that you can’t leave behind‘ he refers to some inspirational teachers and says that they were
inspirational teachers because they were practitioners of their subject. They set almost impossibly high standards for their ablest pupils to achieve.
Clearly, you have to be a practitioner of your subject and develop a deep and wide knowledge and understanding of what you are teaching. Primary teachers are mostly all General Practitioners who then specialise in a subject and coordinate this across the school. The reality is, many are not specialists but are merely filling a subject leader position.
But being a GP Primary teacher is a huge skill because you have to teach a lot of subjects very well. Everyone has their weaker subjects but a truly inspirational GP within a primary school setting is someone who has built confidence across the curriculum.
What is an inspirational teacher to you? Is is all about the personality? Is it all about the content? Is it a cocktail of forces that combine to create sustained wow moments?
According to Powell-Brown and Buchanan (2014) there are seven areas that indicate what truly inspirational teachers are all about: strategies, attitude, nurturing, passion, personal relationship, expectations, and legacy.
They stoke the fire, they go beyond the normal call of their duties and they go the extra mile sometimes in intangible ways.
Ask the students and they will probably have a different list to what you think.
What we do know is that you can’t teach someone to be inspirational. You either have it or you don’t.