Where science and tech meet creativity.

I think I might have mentioned on this blog a couple of times that one of the classes I  sometimes teach is physics for elementary  education majors. All told, I have probably interacted with 100 different education students across a couple different years. It’s not a lot, but we try and keep the class sizes down.  Working with the students and working with teachers  in general has given me a deep appreciation for how unprepared the average person is for physics and how unprepared they are to teach science.

Tonight, when John McCain said we should send soldiers into the classroom, he scared me on many levels.

Teaching requires preparation. I have a doctorate degree in astronomy, and preparing for class is still hard,  takes time, and requires me to continually learn new techniques to improve the craft while at the same time requiring I keep up with the newest in what has been discovered in the universe. Teaching is hard. It’s hard because you bleed for your students, and what they go through as they struggle to make their dreams reality. Teaching is hard. It’s hard because your knowledge in many ways determines what your students are able to do in the next step. As teachers, we may be the limiting factor in our students’ futures.

I get a lot of amazingly bright students in the classroom who’ve come from high schools where their teacher was trying to teach too many classes all at once without the proper education to teach any of them. These wonderful students have the potential to run anywhere: Caltech or MIT  might have been possible  for some of my engineers. They’re creative, they’re driven, they’re all the things a teacher dreams of having. But they’re small-town kids,  from small-town schools, where it might have been one teacher teaching all the subjects. That teacher is probably doing the best he or she can without the tools he or she may need. An English teacher was never meant to teach physics. And I, as a astronomy/physics teacher, shouldn’t teach literature. To allow our students to be the best they can be we have to give them the best teachers we find and train.

Training is important.

The United States military would never send a soldier into a situation they hadn’t at least tried to train him for.  People aren’t thrown out of planes without learning proper technique, and they certainly aren’t asked to fly those planes.  Our soldiers are trained in how to use their guns, and in how to pack their packs.  Part of the “be all you can be” is giving them all the training our tax dollars can afford. I have to say, many of the students who I have respected the most have come out of the service. The are still working to every day be all they can be.

One of these soldiers who had come home, and who is going to college on the G.I. Bill, was one of my elementary education majors. He was  the only boy in the class of 25, and he took  all the girls teasing with a smile, although on one day when they were particularly giving him shit he brought up what life was like for him in Afghanistan.  He came home from serving in battle and decided to become a early elementary school teacher. And he’s going to be a really good one. And he’s getting a college degree make that happen.

Senator John McCain served in the military, he flew planes, he took the training, he did the time in training. I don’t understand: at what point did he forget that education matters especially for the educators?

I think there’s a lot to be said for taking people who served in the military and who have a passion for children  and training them in college via the G.I. Bill to be a next generation of schoolteachers. If this is what a soldier wants to do, let’s find a way to let them do it. And while we’re at it, let’s find ways for soldiers coming home to get any college degree for free.

Training matters.

For soldiers, for students, for all of us.

Training matters. Period.