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sábado, 11 de enero de 2014

Losing touch with the subject you are teaching

I often wonder about the teacher's that have been doing it for their whole careers, how do they keep in touch?. Yes, they are excellent teachers, yes they studied their majors and ever since they have taken probably a couple of courses in pedagogy but what about the science they are teaching how do they keep in touch?

I begun to question this after one of my courses this semester. The subject was called "Structure of Matter" and it was kind of hybrid between studying yes structure of matter but also an introduction to theoretical calculations and all that stuff. The twist here was a great deal of the semester was about the concept of bonds and bonding, and how we are supposed to create a broader definition for bonding (I thought those kind of discussions only existed for things like the definition of life) 

That was like an eye opener for me. Of course I knew science is not a finished thing, everyday hundreds of chemistry articles are published with new findings, but those things we see as changes in academia are not so perceptible for the people outside. In the end the great definitions the ones we have to teach middle schoolers have not changed in a while so why bother? But what would happen if definitions like the ones we have for bonds were to change ? How would we explain it to science teachers around the world about it? And how easy would be for them to truly understand those changes if the haven't been in touch with the field in a while?

If we were to change the definition of bond for example to the way Vader proposed it (I know there a lot of people that disagree or agree with it) would it be worth it to inform science teachers about it ? Or it would be preferable to keep the centurial definitions alive and teach the new ones only to chem undergrads even if it carries a lot of misconceptions with it?

I finally decided that instead of pursuing a PhD in Chemistry I will be doing one in science education in order to focus in chemistry education towards kids and middle schoolers. But one of the things that scares me is losing touch with the field, forgetting this side of me, the organic researcher. 

I'm not changing because I don't love organic chemistry.  I do love it ! I enjoy it so it hurts me a little bit to take this decision. And the idea of losing touch with the feel really scares me.

Will it be my responsibility as educator to keep in touch with the field ? Or researchers will need to find a way to keep in touch with me?

I do believe things like twitter or keep reading the blogs I read will be part of the answer.

I would love to read your thoughts about it. Thank you for reading !!!
I wrote this post throughout the week I just wanted to make an additional comment regarding the discussion we had on twitter (  ) that started with  's blog post  about the chemical spill in West Virginia. I plan to do a post about teaching values in the science classroom (and I think this situation gives a good start for having that kind of discussion) but I think it's very important that we realize saying "we don't know the effects this chemical will have on the environment" won't help #chemophobia. And how to have this kind of discussion about #chemophobia in the classroom?

I usually try for every subject I teach to relate to something in their everyday lives so they see chemistry is useful for anything but should we mention chemophobia or as   said is better to not label it and teaching chemistry adequately will be enough? 

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