AskaSciBlogger Question for June 22nd

What makes a good science teacher?...

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." -Albert Einstein

This is a fascinating and germane question for physicians, who must suffer through the following courses (all taught by science teachers, of course) in order to earn their degree:

1 year each of Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Physics
Comparative Anatomy
Quantitative Analysis
Physiology (Bless me Lord, for I have sinned - I didn't take this in college)
[I'm sure there are other courses out there for the obsessive-compulsive pre-med types. They can have 'em.]

Then in medical school we must take Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Statistics, Pharmacology, Pathology, and on and on and on...

I believe, therefore, that I am qualified to assert that it is not enough for a science teacher to have mastered the material in the course; it is not enough for that teacher to know all the latests advances in the subject, and it is certainly not enough to have years of experience teaching students.

What makes a science teacher great is the ability to picture himself or herself sitting at a desk in the back row, assembling an origami tarantula from last week's quiz, disgusted, bored and scared, and then seek out that student like a laser beam hitting a missile and - wham! - make a connection that will change a life forever.

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." -same dude as above

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25 years ago, I was a chemistry major at U. of Pittsburgh, the only school in Western Penna with a medical school. Naturally, most of my fellow chemistry majors were pre-med.

And I felt sorry for them. Taking courses with the only goal in mind of getting an A. The constant competition with other students for those coveted 'A's', rather than the dreaded 'B'. Having to study subjects for which they had no interest, other than getting a good grade.

I truly enjoyed freshman chemistry, and even more so organic chemistry. It was a genuine delight to be taught by Dr. Samuel Danishevsky, a natural products chemist. It was ironic that even though his specialty was the organic synthesis of natural compounds that had anti-cancer activity (he ended his career with a joint appointment at Columbia U. and Sloan-Memorial Kettering), that wasn't enough to entice my fellow pre-med students into enjoying his lectures.

On the subject of Einstein - he did terribly in school. He quit high school, and failed the entrance exam to the Zurich Technical University the first time. He skipped most of his lectures there. He and his thesis advisor argued so much, that the advisor nearly didn't sign off on Einstein's dissertation. The advisor wouldn't give a good recommendation for Einstein, which is how the most important scientist of the last 100 years ended up as an lowly examiner in the Swiss Patent Office, rather than having a position as a physicist at a university. Luckily, Einstein had plenty of time at the patent office to think about his ideas, and it was during his time there that he wrote his early papers on the photoelectric effect, special relativity, and the physics of viscosity.

I agree that there are good lecturers and bad ones but I totally disagree that it is the job of a university or med school professor to motivate their students into learning the subject.

If a student at that age and level of education isn't already motivated than I say chuck them out and make room for one that wants to be there. Where is the personal responsibility of the student in all this. You make them sound like 5 year olds that need to be entertained?

As a fellow back-bench origamist (?), I can only say...
Amen, Brother.
Thank goodness the Indian Medical Education system does not require a basic science undergraduate degree to enter med school. I don't think I could have put up with any more organic chemistry or elementary physics or calculus beyond 12th standard (High school).