When I taught subjects outside of chemistry, I didn’t always have an in-depth knowledge of the content, but I had a solid understanding of the “big ideas” of science; which gave me the adequate background I needed to step into unfamiliar domains. Still, to teach a subject like physics, you also have to know how to solve problems. I’m talking about the kind of problems that involve complex mathematical equations. Yes, those!
Lucky for me, I also had my teaching superpower, which is what I call the ability to effectively facilitate student learning experiences. And if there is anything I’m good at, it's taking complicated content and figuring out the most effective way for students to learn it (which, by the way, does not always mean “teaching” it - at least not in the traditional sense).
My physics students and I would often solve problems together. I enjoyed the challenge and the students did too. They shared with me the joy I experienced when I got the right answer to a problem and observed the steps I took to fix my mistakes when I got the wrong answer. Sometimes they were able to spot the mistake I made in the problem-solving process before I did. If I got the wrong answer to a problem and one of the students got the right answer, I would ask them to show me how they did it. These were all teachable moments that allowed my student to see that mistakes were nothing to be embarrassed about and making a mistake is just as an opportunity to learn and improve.
My students benefitted by watching me think through problems to figure out the solution. At the time, I didn’t know anything about metacognition, but I now realize that without knowing it, I was actually modelling metacognition by talking through problems. The students learned from hearing me talk through different thinking strategies.
There is a quote that says “Too much ego will kill your talent”. Being a talented educator doesn’t mean you have to know all of the answers all of the time. It's okay to be vulnerable in front of your students, but you cannot do that if you let your ego get in the way.
So, sometimes you may have to check your ego at the door! When I taught physics, I had no choice because I was not the “all -knowing” physics expert. And I didn’t have to be.
That whole school year, we sat down and we learned physics together. And it was fun! Working with my students to learn physics content was rewarding for them and for me.
It's okay to just sit down and learn along with your students. This can make you a member of the class team striving for understanding of science content.
You can stand on the stage and be the sage. You can sit alongside and be a guide.
For goodness’ sake, will you please sit down? Sometimes?
Last Updated: 7/20/2017