March 2013

Reflections on UBC Physics Olympics

A few days ago I had a nightmare. In my dream I had to teach a physics class and I was not only unprepared, but I also couldn’t figure out how to interest the kids in the subject. As the class was in the state of a total mayhem, I spiraled into the state of a total panic… I was scared, helpless and very disappointed in myself… I was sweating when I woke up… Luckily it was just a dream, but I still remember that my biggest challenge as a physics and mathematics teacher has always been to engage and interest the kids. I wasn’t always successful, but I think I got better with time… I am still working on it when I teach my teacher education classes. As long as the students are interested, they will study, will try to understand and will work with me to learn physics…  If I were asked – what is ONE skill that a teacher (or a student-teacher) in your opinion should have? My answer would have been: “Being able to interest students in the subject and help them believe they can understand and become experts in it”. However, it is easier said than done. In order to be able to do that, you have to be interested in the subject yourself and you have to know how to share your passion with others. A few days ago I participated in the organization of the 35th UBC Physics Olympics . I wrote more about it here: This was a huge event with more than 400 participants – teachers and students from all across the province. It took lots of volunteers and lots of work. However, one thing I can say for sure about it: the teachers who came to this event know how to engage their students. This event was about having fun while figuring out difficult things  like an electric circuit mystery, an optical challenge, a difficult Fermi question, or building a contraption that will launch a hacky sack into a target 5 metres away. It was so exciting and uplifting to see how the students and the teachers were enjoying it and most importantly to observe the connection between the teachers and the students. We often criticize our mathematics and science teachers, but this event reminded me that we have an amazing community of physics teachers who are teaching because they love the subject and they want to pass their passion to the students… This was a true inspiration… I would like to say once again how grateful I am to these people and how proud I am to be a member of the BC Physics Teaching community… And next time I go to sleep I think of the Physics Olympics at UBC and I know I will have sweet dreams.

Photos from the event can be found here: or here

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