Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Electrifying Teacher

The front page of the Dallas Morning News has a very nice article about a physics teacher, Christopher Bruhn, from Dallas' School of Science and Engineering. He won the AP Teacher Award, a $30,000 prize for excellence in teaching AP courses.

I love the way this guy teaches. For instance, when teaching about electricity, he asks students to come up and receive an electrical shock from a Van de Graaff generator. He tells them, "This will not kill you. Come to think of it, I have not killed a student yet."

Last year, 24 of his students took the AP Physics exam. He told them that if they all passed they could shave his head with the school's letters on it. And they did all pass it, and the shaving can be seen on YouTube.

This teacher exemplifies what I have believed for many years now; that the joy of learning is one of the most important components of teaching and learning. If I were to evaluate teachers, evaluating whether or not the teacher contributed to the students joy of learning would be near the top of the list.

It is as simple as this: students who enjoy learning will learn more, retain more of what they learned, and are more likely to continue their education than students who don’t.

Every subject, every topic can be taught in such a manner that at least most of the students enjoy it. It may not be easy to do, but that is what the best teachers do.

So let us applaud them, and, when training new teachers, emphasize that their students’ joy of learning should be of paramount importance.  You'll be hard pressed to find a student who doesn't agree.


Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.


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