September 2012

Should You Become a Physics Teacher?

This term I teach future physics teachers. I have a group of wonderful students (13 future physics teachers) and we meet for three hours a week. Last week the students had an opportunity to visit a local school for a day (on a one-day practicum) and observe lessons, interact with teachers and students… When they came back and we debriefed it, a few of the teacher-candidates mentioned that they heard from the school teachers that becoming a physics teacher is not a good professional choice – a hard and not very well paid job, challenge to set up and clean after the labs, difficulties with the students who do not want to study physics etc… As they were telling me all these reasons why being a physics teacher might not be the best choice, I thought that they were correct. There are many-many reasons for not becoming a teacher (especially a physics teacher). It is a very hard job, especially if you care a lot about it, it is often NOT paid very well, the students DO make trouble and the labs ARE challenging to set up. However, despite all the reasons, there is something that my student-teachers didn’t mention. And it doesn’t surprise me… They haven’t experienced it yet… The ONE and only reason people SHOULD become physics teachers if you cannot imagine NOT doing it. I know that I wouldn’t be happy if I were a programmer, a doctor or a lawyer. I love teaching, I love science and mathematics and I know I am happy when I am in the classroom… I also know that when I attend physics professional development events and meet people like me, I feel happy (just come to see what AAPT national meetings are or meet local BCAPT physics teaching colleagues). I feel happy and fulfilled and I know that over my physics teaching career of almost 20 years I had a chance to made a difference in the lives of my students. How do I measure it? How do I measure that when I come to class and have a great lesson I feel happy and accomplished? I find personal meaning in teaching science. How do I measure that when I find a cool physics demo or see an interesting problem it can make my day… Anyway, physics teaching is a great choice of a profession if it is something you love… Wait, this is how Wikipedia defines a word “profession” A profession is a vocation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain. So maybe being a physics teacher is NOT just a profession – it is a passion for science and children that can come out during your lessons… And I certainly love it. And this post is dedicated to amazing physics and science teachers I have met in my life. THANK YOU for being there for all of us!!!

3 Responses to Should You Become a Physics Teacher?

  1. Monika Verma

    This is seriously very inspiring as I also want to become a Physics teacher.

  2. Elvira Marquez

    Thank you so much Dr.Marina for this wonderful and inspiring letter for all science teachers specially for Physics Teachers…I thank God by giving me the chance and energy to be part of Physics classroom for 25 yrs.You’re TRUE,Dr.Marina, without LOVE and dedication,you’ll never perform well as a Physics Teacher..and you’ll MISSED PHYSICS after you left teaching it….i missed Teaching Physics….

  3. Marina Milner-Bolotin

    Elvie, I hope you will be able to come and visit our events! Our local physics teaching community has a great number of wonderful physics teachers! Please join us! I also hope you will become a physics teacher in Canada.

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