Stephen Hawking – one of the great teachers

Two days after news came through of the death of esteemed physicist and author Stephen Hawking, I presented the Australian Scholarship Group’s National Excellence in Teaching Awards. Hawking’s passing last week affected me deeply and I posted a tweet that his death was a tremor in the force. It wasn’t about the answers, it was about the questions and he demonstrated that learning is about thinking not just knowing.

I used Hawking’s life and legacy in my address to NEiTA recipients. The education community has a lot to learn from Stephen Hawking. He was not only a brilliant mind and teacher but someone who remained deeply curious throughout his life. Hawking distilled the complex into the simple and showed how one could overcome a disability. In doing so, he gained a legion of fans and admirers. What I loved most was that he never gave up asking ‘how’ and ‘why’. That insatiable curiosity inspired him until the end.

My favourite Hawking quote is this:

If we want every child to look up and never give up, then we need teachers who approach their work in the same way as Hawking – with imagination, grit and curiosity.

Great teachers are stars in a child’s universe. Like Hawking, their impact on lives shines bright.


3 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking – one of the great teachers

  1. Greg, another great reflective piece though I would suggest great teachers are not “the stars in a child’s universe”, but rather great teachers are the enablers….like language is to a community.

    All children are born asking “why” and naturally curious, however somewhere along their early life that stops being the norm and asking why is discouraged and even sometime perceived as embarrassing.

    Great teachers though, grow a child’s curiosity by equipping them with capabilities and tools to enable each child to stretch their imagination and thinking through collective investigations and continuous reflection.

    Stephen Hawking, like all children, was born curious and it was continually encouraged. His great teachers though were probably his parents (Dad worked for the National Institute of Medical Research and Mum was often in the backyard “where Stephen would often stretch out on summer evenings to stare up at the stars.”)

    This then is our challenge as teachers….nurturing and growing one of the greatest gifts of life…that of being curiosity.

  2. Well said- yes it was his insatiable curiosity that I admired most .He is a great loss to the human learning community

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