What is your favourite subject? I hope you have one!

Have you ever thought WHY? There could be many reasons for it but one of the most common reason we found is the influence of the subject teacher. Today we want to exclusively talk about science teachers. Every subject is unique with its own best practices and teaching methodology. In this article, I wish to share different types of teachers ‘Teacher Species‘ and how this species can endanger learning science ‘Endangered Science‘. So far I have listed 5 such species but I think collectively we can add more 🙂

#1 Teacher Species: The Seed Coat

As science teachers, we know that the seed coat is to protect the seed from physical damage. It is the one which safeguards the embryo. While learning the topic of germination in our classroom we found that every seed doesn’t germinate. One of the reasons we came across was the thickness of seed coat. Sometimes the seed coat is so protective that it doesn’t allow water to enter the embryo thus not allowing it to grow or germinate. As parents and teachers, we too sometimes exhibit the above phenomenon. We can’t see the children struggle with a problem. We just can’t resist being part of their learning experience. We interject at a moment when the child is just about to reach the critical understanding. We begin to prompt the right answers. And that’s when we deprive them of the true joy of learning. The thrill of discovery is an awesome feeling and every science student has a right to experience it.

#1 Antidote: Be an observer and not an active participant. Try being a reporter in your own class when the learners are investigating or experimenting. Collect pieces of evidence in the form of pictures or videos. Remember keeping away can also be helpful for your learners.

#2 Teacher Species: The Inert Gas

Remember the 18th group of the periodic table. The elements on the far right with their valence shells completely filled. So they don’t feel the need to exchange their electrons and are happily nonreactive. By now you would have picked up the characteristic I am emphasizing on; just like how Mendeleev discovered certain elements on paper before their actual discovery. An inert teacher is someone who is not active, reactive or interactive. She feels her lesson plans are perfect and they have no time, no room, and no respect for any input. The questions and the ideas of the students make no way in the class. Usually, these characteristics can be seen more prevalent in the experienced science teachers. (WE KNOW IT ALL!) Considering our learners belonging to generation Z and 21st century where most of the devices ask for user inputs and feedback, an inert teacher looks obsolete. Keep in mind we’re trying to foster an Environment where a student-centered inquiry is a norm, not the exception. Just remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the students.

#2 Antidote: Be noble, not inert. Create a parking lot or a wondering wall in your classroom for the students to put up their questions and ideas. Discuss and celebrate ‘question of the week’.

#3 Teacher Species: The Black Hole

Anything and everything near the black hole gets pulled by its strong gravity. It doesn’t allow anything to escape not even light! Don’t worry too much about the black holes, our Earth will never be pulled in it (confirms scientists at NASA). My worry is with the teachers with strong gravity. A student brings butterfly in a jar or a binocular – everything gets confiscated. The teacher doesn’t welcome any outside material or resource. Even the once provided by the school are kept away from the students. So, a teacher exhibits greed when they feel the need to be in control of all the equipment and all the materials in the classroom and no student ever has any access to any equipment. Such teachers prefer demonstrations and not experiments; Once the demonstrations are over they walk off with their stuff.

#3 Antidote: We understand that things need to be handled with care. If that is the worry teach your students the procedure for bringing, accessing and returning material safely. Students will never learn how to responsibly handle breakable or dangerous materials if they never get the chance. Initially, your class might be too excited to handle the resources but once they see them coming regularly they go easy on them.Remember – In science the more we explore the more we learn.

#4 Teacher Species: The Encyclopedia

Reading books and collecting information is a good habit. As teachers, we are expected to gain proficiency in our respective subject but remember not everything needs to be forwarded. Our job is not to dispense information through long lectures neither are we obliged to cover everything mentioned in the textbook. It may sound little strange as we are expected to cover our syllabus in our school. What I intend to say is achieve your outcomes 100% through multiple and more attractive means; don’t limit yourself with a textbook. The outcomes can be achieved in different ways sometimes the textbook comes with lots of peripheral content to cover (publishers love to sell more pages); Given a very limited time, a teacher is left with no option but to use the long lecture method. And it worked for all of us, didn’t it? But it may not work for our students!

#4 Antidote: Use timer while delivering a lesson. Consider you have limited talk time with you; after every 5 to 7 min. stop yourself and ask a question to the class. Remember coverage does not equal student understanding.

#5 Teacher Species: The Indicator

All the science teachers out there quickly name some indicators we have used in our chemistry labs. Starting with our favorite ‘litmus paper’ the red turns blue under basic or alkaline conditions and the blue turns red under acidic conditions. A better version of litmus would be the universal indicator that changes gradually over a range of pH. Some other that we may have used during our titrations are ‘phenolphthalein’ or ‘Methyl orange’ (just for memory recall…little nostalgic here!). What we’re talking about is a keen desire to get to one right answer. That’s a single-minded focus on narrowly defined content.  But in reality, we come across situations which are unique to us, problems which no one has solved. The questions are fast and furious but the right answer may not exist or there exist multiple solutions. This is what needs to be taught to our learners. In science, the list of correct versus incorrect doesn’t exist; everything is open to be challenged. To put it in a better way I would say there exist a room for development, further investigation is always a possibility.

#5 Antidote: Discuss ‘Open’ ended questions with your learners. I can recollect our class discussing all possibilities to live on Mars after the successful landing of ‘Mangalyan‘ or planting on Moon. It may sound out of syllabus and crazy at times but believe me, the kids love these discussions. They are curious to know about future and explore the uncharted territories and possibilities. Remember Sky is the limit.

These were just the 5 different species which I fear would endanger science. With time I am sure we would add few more to the list may be some positive once as well. Thanks for reading it through. Would love to see your comments. Wait for the next post on ‘Endangered Teacher Species’.

Science teachers here are some quick facts for you:

  1. The seed coat is also known as Testa.
  2. There are 6 Noble elements – Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon, and Radon.
  3. The supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way is called Sagittarius A.
  4. There are certain fake entries made in encyclopedias to check whether other publishers or companies are copying from their publications. These are known as Mountweazels. Why is it called ‘Mountweazels’? that is for you to find out.
  5. There exist a lot of problems in mathematics which are unsolved. Try to find and solve them 🙂


About the author:

Sahil Sayed, an educator, teacher, and learner. An engineer who worked in Business Intelligence domain before committing himself to K-12 education. He has conducted various workshops and training for teachers across the country and few abroad. Currently, he is heading Science, Mathematics, and ICT at Delhi Public World School, Nerul; On weekends you would find him developing STEM modules like ‘Fun with Newton’, ‘Virtual Reality’ and ‘Building Bridges’ or adding value among the youth through his program on ‘Gyrification of Skills’ at encephalors.com