Value and authenticity in teaching

While in Melbourne to present a masterclass for educators, Scott Maxwell sat down with Teacher to unpack the importance of two qualities in teaching: value and authenticity.

Maxwell is a music teacher at Grant High School in Mt Gambier, South Australia, and was named ARIA Music Teacher of the Year in 2018. He's known for writing original musicals for his school, effectively tackling performance anxiety, and ensuring there is a place in the music program for every student.

Value and authenticity, he says, are some of the most important traits of being a teacher.

‘I think with value, we're looking at how you value your students for a start … and how do you acknowledge that value to those people?' he tells Teacher. ‘If they feel like they belong, they feel like they're valued, then obviously they're going to engage in whatever you're doing a whole bunch more.'

As for authenticity, Maxwell shares that this can involve anything from presenting authentic self to students, to ensuring the learning in your classroom is authentic.

‘Students really are looking to make meaning out of what they're doing. Why am I doing this? Why do I have to do this? So, I think if you can make the learning authentic … then students are going to engage a lot more, you know, they're going to see the “why”,' he explains. ‘We find that when kids find that authenticity in their learning, they're much more likely to engage and to not misbehave or just zone out.'


Scott Maxwell says students, particularly in secondary school, are looking to make meaning out of what they’re learning. How do you communicate the meaning of lessons to students? Does this assist in increasing student engagement?

What would you say are your top five most important traits of being a teacher? Why are these traits most important to you and your teaching? Does your top five list match that of a colleague?