As someone who teaches physics to ninth graders, I get a wide range of responses from adults when sharing my profession. More often than not, I’m met with tales of formulas gone wrong and jargon that left confusion in its wake. I can see minds flashing back to high school days as people share that “physics just wasn’t their thing.” It is a conversation that breaks my heart and inspires me to do better by a subject that has so much to offer, but is sometimes so misrepresented.
As I reflect during this National Engineers Week on those who opened my eyes to the wonder of science and engineering, I’m reminded of my high school physics teacher. Casting off stereotypes of old, she held up a mirror of a strong woman who enjoyed the intricacies and challenges of science, and I could see myself someday standing in her shoes. I also think of a female professor in college who commanded computer code like an orchestral arrangement, extending my vision of who I could be and what I could accomplish. Just as we do at Dana Hall School every day, they gave me an opportunity to see myself in a field that had typically been dominated by men. They navigated the beautiful complexities of equations with comfort that inspired me, and they wore their confidence proudly, like a badge of honor.
As teachers, we are given this same opportunity to inspire and model a deep appreciation for the power that comes from a commanding understanding of science and engineering. Science allows us to understand the natural world as it is, and engineering allows us to manipulate it to solve problems we face. Being confident that any problem could be reduced to a set of inputs and a range of potential outcomes leads to the feeling that any of the world’s major issues can be tackled, and it will only be a matter of time before the right model could save the day.
As I look to the fall of 2019, I am elated to be teaching a new upper-level course at Dana Hall School that will offer students an opportunity to leverage a deep understanding of physics to develop sophisticated solutions to problems they encounter. In Physics and Engineering, students will spend time developing logical thought patterns for how to solve problems effectively, engage in long term projects, and have sufficient time for project solutions to be tested and ultimately revised based on guidance from the experimental data. I hope they will be captivated by the beauty of mathematical models, challenged by the intricacies of data collection, puzzled by the analysis of their results, and inspired to redesign in pursuit of improved success. I hope they will leave my classroom confident that there are problems they are destined to solve and that it is only a matter of time until they are the ones who find the solutions to save the day.