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Having childlike curiosity can enhance teaching

‘Sheel is the reason I get out of bed every morning. He is the particle to my anti-particle, the charge to my electron, the magnet in my field.’ This is just one of the brilliant things students had to say about Sheel Chowdhary, RuTC Physics teacher, on Rate My Teachers, an online forum that allows students to anonymously comment on the effectiveness of their teachers.

He’s one of those teachers who isn’t easily forgotten by students. The student’s comment above shows that Sheel has found a way to conquer one of the most difficult on-going battles teachers face – motivating students, especially in more academic subjects like science. When asked how he does this, Sheel has one simple answer. He says, ‘Have the intense curiosity of a child and never stop learning about your subject.’

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When you speak to him it is evident he lives and breathes physics. Given the opportunity, he will take his time to explain to you how Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity applies to your mobile phone GPS, which is informed by satellites that ‘move at ridiculous speeds’ so record time more slowly and need to be synchronised with atomic clocks on earth. While he explains this to you in detail, you quickly become enthralled and want to know more. You are now willing to listen to anything he has to say next, alert and interested in every word. He has an even greater effect on his Science students.

‘When I start lessons by talking to students about the real-life application of physics in the news and in their own lives, they become focused and want to know why and how, so the rest of the lesson, where I teach the theoretical physics in the syllabus, is relatively straight forward,’ says Sheel. He tailors his BBC News app to show science articles, which he reads daily, often sending him on a journey of discovery of new physics findings. The most intriguing ones he shares with his students, always trying to link them to what the students are learning.

‘Keeping up to date comes naturally when you have enthusiasm and passion for the subject,’ he says. Sheel’s knowledge of what’s current in the physics world is what makes him more relevant. His enthusiasm in learning and sharing this knowledge is what makes his students fully engaged, to the point where it’s the very thing that gets them out of bed and motivated to learn.

 

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