In my memories of school the feeling that it was mostly about things I had to do, rather than things I was looking forward to doing is very predominant. It was not until I got closer to college – and classes I was taking included more subjects in which I had a real interest – that my days in school started feeling shorter, and homework more meaningful. I spent a good amount of my K-12 days wondering why I had to learn so many things that seemed unrelated to my interests, that were boring, and that were not very applicable to my life at the time. It is quite possible that personality had much to do with this perception of my school experience, especially since my younger sister seemed quite content with hers. Adventure has been a big component of my motivation, and let’s face it, incorporating the feelings of anticipation and exploration into chemistry may not come naturally. There were, however, those few educators who sparked my mind and ignited my imagination. They inspired me to learn. My tenth grade physics teacher incorporated real life into the problems he was assigning to the class, turning the work into challenges based on stories, or relating them to problems physicists at NASA would have had to solve in order to get rockets into orbit. He did not turn me into a physicist, but he opened my mind to how physics is present in almost everything we do and touch, and how being aware of such a fact can make simple things around me quite interesting. It keeps me wondering how some things happen, such as aerodynamics and planes flying, or how some things are built to serve specific purposes, such as the wings of an airplane. My eleventh grade math teacher turned calculus into games and challenges. In the beginning, it was a bit confusing, especially after stating that some sums are approximations, which to me sounded like saying that the sky is not blue. But then again, real life challenges related to the concepts being taught, along with promoting some healthy competition among classmates, turned math into magic. Yes, magic. Possibly the most frustrating part of my early education was to have to learn music theory as a prerequisite to playing an instrument. It was like I was very hungry, and lunch was on the other side of a river whose current increased as I swam faster. Playing Chopin seemed so far away. Today’s incorporation of technology into teaching enables educators to work with the different personalities and learning styles in each of their classes. I have seen smartphone apps that show graphically how to play a complex piano piece, without having to read one single note, which is a great tool to get a young mind interested in investing in the rest of the learning process. As much as technology continues to create opportunities for us to improve education, there is no substitute for the inspiring teachers that open one’s mind to the great adventure of learning. Genius Plaza – igniting the genius in every child!
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