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Saturday, January 31, 2015

49 Reasons I got into and love Teaching - In Honor of my 49 GTP Finalist Colleagues!

In late January, 1995, just having completed my Ph.D. defense at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in high energy physics, I started teaching the second semester of physics classes at Amundsen High School in the Chicago Public Schools. I did not know what to expect, as any first-year teacher knows, but now, almost exactly 20 years later, I have had an incredible ride and cannot imagine working in any other job. I have been at Evanston Township High School for 16.5 years, and now reflecting on why and what I love about teaching, I wanted to share 49 reasons - that number, 49, is in honor of the 49 colleagues from around the world who are finalists for the first Global Teacher Prize! I am not sure why I am mentioned in the same breath as this amazing group of teachers and human beings, but I am thrilled and humbled to have been selected.

Here goes: Why did I go into teaching, and why do I love working with high school students?
1. To inspire;
2. To motivate;
3. To encourage;
4. To make students think and wonder about the world around us;
5. To help students grow intellectually, socially and personally;
6. To think creatively about problems;
7. To help students become better problem solvers;
8. To help them build confidence and self-esteem;
9. To (hopefully) be a positive role model;
10. To mentor;
11. To show the role of STEM in everyday life;
12. To listen;
13. To share an enthusiasm for learning;
14. To teach physics at whatever level students can handle;
15. To show how science is connected to politics, history and economics.
16. To learn from colleagues;
17. To coach;
18. To advise on student research;
19. To collaborate with colleagues in ETHS and at Northwestern University;
20. To help students prepare for the next level - college and/or career;
21. To help guide and prepare the next generation of teachers;
22. To promote teaching as an essential profession for all of society;
23. To help create educated, scientifically literate citizens and voters;
24. To show how science is necessary to solve numerous national and global problems;
25. To do science with students;
26. To share ideas with colleagues, either through professional development training or publications;
27. To share resources with students around the world (e.g. the class blog and how to videos online);
28. To relate science to other core classes all students take;
29. To form strong relationships with students so I know what works for them as individuals;
30. To brag about students in many hundreds of letters of recommendation for college and jobs;
31. To help develop the next generation of science education tools and pedagogy;
32. To discuss STEM related careers;
33. To provide guidance to college science programs;
34. To improve students' technical writing and communication skills;
35. To create and share countless, bad science puns! I live for moans and groans after a bad pun!
36. To meet with parents to help them with their children's futures;
37. To have daily laughs and giggles with all the crazy situations students get into;
38. To provide opportunities outside of the classroom for students to pursue personal interests;
39. To work on the achievement gaps between different groups of students, such as in Project Excite;
40. To create a safe environment for all of us to fail, and then learn with each other from those failures;
41. To create and use a wide variety of lessons, to reach every individual student;
42. To create a growth, capable of anything mindset for each student;
43. To help each student realize their strengths and weaknesses and interests, and then improve;
44. To allow the freedom to try new things and promote creativity;
45. To allow students to share with each other;
46. To share experiences as a scientist;
47. To be passionate about learning, and compassionate towards all;
48. To have one and only one rule: The Golden Rule (except for the cell phone rule: if a phone goes off  
      during class, that person must dance on a lab bench for the class! Students made this one up!)
49. To never give up on any student, and to not allow them to give up on themselves!

Here is to teachers everywhere - Thank you for all you do! And to the other GTP Finalists, thank you for a shot of teaching adrenaline because of the AMAZING things you are doing - your biographies can only inspire me and any other teacher on the planet!!!


  1. Thanks for all those wonderful reasons, I love #14 that to teach physics at what ever level students can handle because I always search about new ways to simplify physics to the students so they find it easy , fun, connected to their life .also I love the point #40 that I never give up on any student, also I love the point#44 that to allow my students freedom to try new things , also the point# 29 to for a strong relationship with my student , actually I love all of them
    Hanan Madaheen, jordan
    GTP finalists

  2. Hanan, thank you for your feedback, and congratulations to you and all you do with your students! As things settle down with all this excitement, I'd be very interested in learning what you do with your classes. I hope all is well!
    - Mark