Are you tempted to teach?

Find out about year 3 student Maxim Oweyssi’s experience undertaking a teach physics internship in London through The Ogden Trust.

As far as my internship goes, if someone asked me a few years ago, whether I see myself teaching children, my answer would be a decisive no: “because I want to do research” I would say. However, after having the chance to prepare and teach lessons on my own, I have to admit that there is something intriguing about the prospect of becoming a teacher. Putting aside the altruistic aspect of contributing towards the knowledge of future generations, I found the actual work fulfilling. There is something immensely satisfying about that “aha” moment when your students finally understand a new concept – they have that Archimedean eureka look in their eyes.

The major issue with physics is that there are not enough teachers and material is often presented in a sterile and mechanically focused way. After all, it has been over three centuries since Sir Isaac Newton walked the grounds of the Cavendish Laboratories.

This is why it is important to make references to contemporary topics in physics such as Relativity or Quantum Theory. This way we can make the abstract and seemingly tedious material appeal to the young generation.

I was first introduced to physics in elementary school. My teacher told me that ‘it is the study of the world around us’. My teacher was not trying to hammer equations into our heads, instead he made an effort to incite curiosity and interest by linking theory with reality, emphasizing how one explains the other.

During my internship, I kept going back reviewing the mentors who have taught me. Many of them would either overcomplicate banalities or on the contrary, not explain more advanced matters thoroughly. When I was teaching a lesson about gravity, I decided to change things up and include a footnote. A sneak peek into concepts introduced by general relativity, i.e. the existence of spacetime. The topic may be rather abstract and intimidating for 13 year old children. That is why I took care to carefully build on the students’ previous knowledge. I compared the curvature of spacetime to things they may have encountered in life. I demonstrated this using spandex stretched on a hoop, which gave the students a chance to get a graphic representation of the General Relativity principles. This may be useful for their future studies. My aim was for my students to retain more than just ambiguous memories from a speech given by the teacher.

The main question still stands: “to teach or not to teach?”. After having reflected on this, I realised that although theoretical research is far too exciting to never give it a go, one cannot do so indefinitely.

I have come to realize the importance of giving away ideas to younger generations. As long as the unanswered questions in physics still give me goosebumps, I will keep digging for answers. However, I am glad to have had the opportunity to inspire a younger generation on the table.

Find out more about The Ogden Trust’s Teach Physics internships.


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