Inside the classroom with Dr Paul Francis

If my enthusiasm ever flags, listening to Mozart reminds me of the wonder and beauty of this world.

ANU Reporter takes a few minutes with astrophysicist DR PAUL FRANCIS, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

If you had to sum up your role in 50 words, what would they be?

I help the students realise what an absolutely amazing and wondrous universe they live in and to equip them with the confidence and skills to make something of its limitless opportunities.

What makes a good teacher?

I wish I knew! Enthusiasm and passion are clearly important. I guess a lot of it is really listening to your students. Tenacity, you will never teach anything right the first time, or even the tenth time. You have to keep on trying new approaches, and be very rigorous about evaluating what does and does not help the students learn.

Who inspires you?

Mozart. If my enthusiasm ever flags, listening to Mozart reminds me of the wonder and beauty of this world.

What is the best excuse you've ever received?

In one of our online courses, we had a student from rural Mexico, who only had water delivered to his house once every two months. He missed a deadline because the water had just been delivered and he couldn't wait to have his first shower in weeks. And I don't blame him.

What is the best lesson you have learned from a student?

No matter how long you've taught, and however experienced you become, your students will always find ways to surprise you. Eisenhower famously said that "in preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable".

Exactly the same thing applies to teaching; you can never anticipate in advance how students will react. You have to listen to your students and think on your feet.

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