Like many people, I knew Steve-o only as the persona he was on TV. He was the stereotypical Aussie… a loud, passionate, in-yer-face, no-nonsense bloke. I remember the first time I saw him on TV was about 8 years ago in a guide to the world’s 10 most deadly snakes, or rather “The World’s 10 MOST DEADLY SNAKES!” I’d been fortunate enought to tape the show, and when I viewed it knew that here was a man to inspire people. Not only did he tell us about the snakes, he actually handled them… without fear, and in a manner guaranteed to have you sitting on the edge of your seat, sure that every second was going to be his last… it wasn’t.
I took the video into school as I was convinced this was something out of the ordinary, and I could use it to spark some writing about the environment or about fear. The pupils I showed it to were as awe-struck at his antics as I was… and came up trumps with folio pieces on snakes, the environment, man vs animals, the nature of fear. There were also some good discussions in the class as to the validity of Steve Irwin’s methods.
I’ve seen any number of tributes to him today on the media but what has surprised me is the number of kids in school who are talking about his death. Here was someone who they had never met, someone who did things they will never do, and who died in the most surreal of ways, yet who obviously touched them in a very real way. It truly is a global village.
Listening to the news, I’ve heard him called crazy, an enthusiast, an environmentalist, passionate about animals, wreckless, careless, Australian, a father, a husband… you name it, I’ve heard lots of people call him lots of things. Yet I believe there was one other thing that Steve Irwin was as well… a teacher.
From my point of view, he made me look at the things I am afraid of in a new light. He taught me about animals I didn’t know about, he made me want to find out more. His passion was conveyed to me in such a way that I wanted to get my pupils as enthusiastic about them as he was… in short, he did what any great teacher does, and what all the rest of us aspire to do… he shared his love for his subject with us and made us want to learn more.