So, you’ve had your timetable and your worst nightmare has come true – this year you have to teach physics! Your knees begin to give way as you scrutinise that damning grid and discover bottom set Yr10 physics written in what looks like blood all over it. You sit, slowly and leaning to the armrest of your chair, cover your face with your trembling hands, and think “What am I going to do?”
This article was originally printed in the October 2015 edition of UKEdMagazine
We’ve all had moments like these before dreading that class, or that subject that we really don’t feel confident in, but you do not need to despair. Firstly, physics is a lovely subject. Ask a physicist. They love it, they talk about it and even make physics jokes! But if you, for a minute, try to go beyond the immediate reaction of thinking “What weirdoes!” and begin to see things through the eyes of a physicist you might get to like this beautiful subject too and maybe even go as far as loving it. It has happened to the most reluctant non-specialist science teachers, so it could happen to you too.
But what is the best way to embark on the wonderful journey that is teaching physics and inspiring learners to ask meaningful questions about the world around them? Well, you might think I am biased, but I believe having a coach is the best way to be inspired and, ideally, having a programme of professional development dedicated to you is something to crave.
Unfortunately, we don’t all have these resources at hand when we need them and for the length of time desired, but people who can inspire and help us do not need to always be physically present with us, and remote learning communities can still be very powerful and available at a time convenient for us. For Physics the best community you can join is talkphysics.org and not only because I am one of the Editors, but because I have experienced firsthand how helpful and innovative its members are. If you post a question there, you will get a range of really good answers and resources from experienced teachers of Physics and everyone is made to feel welcome, so you should not feel afraid of asking questions.
Something else that you can find on TalkPhysics is the Supporting Physics Teaching resource, which can also be found at supportingphysicsteaching.net. This resource (created and curated, like TalkPhysics, by The Institute of Physics) is a wealth of teaching resources, teaching ideas and approaches, common misconceptions, and useful threads that allow all teachers, whether new to Physics or experienced, to update their Physics content knowledge and expand their pedagogical perspective on the subject.
Although the two resources mentioned above are a must for a new teacher of Physics, there are also many useful contributions by individual teachers. For example, and very relevant with the new compulsory GCSE and A-level practicals, the sciencedemo.org blog by Alom Shaha had many innovative Physics demonstrations very well presented and easy to replicate.
Another blogger worthy of note is indeed Neil Atkin, who has some fantastic ideas on neilatkin.com. He doesn’t deal with Physics alone, but in terms of sound, innovative and creative pedagogy, you will not find many other places that will inspire you the way Neil does.
I couldn’t end this very brief starter guide to Physics communities and resources without mentioning my favourite Physics YouTube channels and I have to say that it has been difficult to narrow them down to the top three, but at the moment and in order of usefulness I give you:
- Veritasium bit.ly/uked15oct04, a cool Australian dude who records people’s responses to physics questions. The responses Derek (Veritasium) gets are often indicative of the misconceptions our learners have in their understanding and this is an incredibly powerful way to challenge our learners understanding
- Minute Physics bit.ly/uked15oct05, short and fun physics explanations that can be used to add some sparks to your lessons, or as flipped learning resources
- Physics Girl bit.ly/uked15oct06, a nice American girl who, although a bit… well… American at times, comes up with some really neat demonstrations and explanations. It could be a girl’s touch, but this woman shows some traditional stuff in way I had not seen before, so she has to rate high in my list.
And if you are enjoying this article so much that you want to read more from me at alessiobernardelli.wordpress.com and CollaboratEd.org.uk/Courses/Blog.
Alessio Bernardelli is a multiple award-winning teacher of Physics. He is the Founding Director of CollaboratEd.org.uk and also works as a consultant for the Institute of Physics in the roles of Network Coordinator, Teaching and Learning Coach, and Editor of Talkphysics.org. Alessio was Head of KS3 Science for over 5 years and he also worked with NGfL Cymry as a Field Development Officer and with TES as the Science Subject Lead. Alessio is an Official iMindMap Leader, a Peer Coaching Facilitator, and a TASC Specialist with years of experience in developing teachers through effective CPD, coaching, and mentoring. You can follow Alessio on Twitter as @asober, or @Collaborat_Ed.