Today, we begin this regular feature in TFT, the Educator Spotlight where we feature passionate educators and edubloggers.
We are honored to have Sir. Dennis Seda, a Physics Teacher, share his thoughts and strategies in education 🙂
1) Share a bit about your teaching background.
> I have been teaching in Indonesia for 4 years, focusing on Secondary Science and Physics. Prior to that, I spent 3 years teaching ESL and high school science and mathematics in a tuition/tutorial center back in the Philippines.
2) Why did you decide to teach?
> Several reasons. It all started as a way to earn some extra cash, when presented an opportunity on my final year in university. An acquaintance asked me to cover for his science class in the tuition center he worked for part-time, and I guess i impressed the owner enough that she asked me to submit a CV. Turns out I had a knack for teaching small groups.
Even working full-time for a year, I still did the occasional tutorial for a span of a year. After deciding that the full-time jobs I tried (first as a call-center agent, and then a trainee in a semiconductor company) was not for me, I decided to give the tutoring one more try, this time as a on a more permanent basis (still part-time though). This was when I started branching out into teaching ESL, in addition to science and mathematics. I was in the presence of different people, most of whom were trained teachers. I learned a lot from them at that time, and so i got stuck to teaching.
3) What are the top 3 things that fascinate you most about your subject?
> I am really into the sciences, especially physics. I love how it is neither purely analytic nor purely practical. Furthermore, scientific advances tend to blur the lines of science every so often, keeping it fresh. Finally, i really like the fact that science is all around us, even though it may not be appreciated by most of us. I, for one, just love doing bungee-trampoline just so I can apply different scientific ideas. Of course, I try to simply have fun too, but I just can’t help to see science everywhere.
4) What do you think are 3 things every teacher should know or have?
> There are a lot of things I think a teacher should possess. In my opinion, the top three are:
A. A desire to learn. A teacher needs to learn as well. For me, that helps keep the relationship between students and teachers as real as possible, as they can learn from each other. Furthermore, this allows a teacher to be flexible, since an open mind sees new things as opportunities.
B. A desire and passion to help. For me, it is not enough to know how teach. There has to be a genuine desire to help students become better, not just know more.
C. Passion and mastery of the subject being taught. By this, I mean that there is not only the theoretical mastery, but actually loving the subject that you eat and breathe it.
A good example in my case would be seeing a situation for what it is as (how will I make my basketball shot better?) compared to simply knowing how to solve a problem related to said situation (how fast should the basketball go when I shoot?) When passion is there, it just rubs off onto the students.
5) What is your opinion on the K to 12 program?
> I am in favor of the program. There are pros and cons to the idea, but overall the positives outweigh the negatives by a wide margin in my opinion.
6) What are your 3 favorite strategies in engaging students?
> I love the practical activity. It not only builds skills, but actually allows the students to learn the idea without my intervention. In my experience, learning practically on your own keeps the mind active and more easily shows the point of a science lesson better than any theoretical discussion.
If a discussion does have to take place, one strategy i employ is the think-pair-share, which allows students to discuss the idea. This also allows everyone to be involved, and not just one particular student.
Another thing I do often in class, especially assessments, is peer quizzing (aka “quiz-quiz-trade”). For me, this allows the students to think for themselves again. And of course, it helps in keeping the not-so-well-behaved students on their toes, so it helps in making them do the things they’re supposed to do!
7) Who has been the most influential teacher/educator to you?
> One of my university physics professors. He has this ability to make things so simple, that he gives overly complicated questions to check your understanding. For some reason, I had a hard time in the beginning of classes with him, but he always reminded us of two things, which I have adopted as my own strategies.
The first is, “Start with what you know”. The second: “Make sure what you know is correct.”
Because of these two statements, not only did I passed his final exam, but I finished it a full hour ahead of my classmates. And then I was told I was just showing off, since I got a perfect score (including all bonus points).
Now, I try to make the students do the same thing.
8) How do you keep up to date as an educator in your field?
> As I am not a holder of a teaching degree, I try to read as many books about general education, and teaching strategies that would be applicable to science.
I also try to be involved in as many teaching seminars, symposiums, and similar activities when possible.
Eventually, I would like to have a teaching degree under my belt, so I am currently looking for an online course that awards one at the end.
One thing that I find extremely useful is reading trivia and challenge books about the sciences. They usually have useful ideas on introducing lessons or testing the stronger students.
9) How do you integrate technology in your classroom?
> I usually try to involve students by using spreadsheet and graphing software, in order for them to be familiar with these tools.
Furthermore, applications of the scientific principles learned in class is technology, so another way to integrate technology in the class is to use the science they learn and use it in a useful manner.
10) What is your teaching philosophy?
>Learning is nonstop. Learning is an experience. Learning is for everyone.