How Dark Matter Brightened my Day

Teaching can often be a challenge to the most positive among us and so I thought I’d share a little joy with you today.

During my lesson this evening, I unwittingly became a part of a truly outstanding lesson. This elusive quality was flaunted right in front of me in my very own lesson and it is one of those experiences I will NEVER forget.

The outstanding teacher in question spoke about dark matter and dark energy. Now I’m an English teacher and science has never made a whole bunch of sense to me. More than that, I can never remember taking much of an interest, except in Chemistry I guess… and that’s just because the teacher was “out there!” Thinking back to other science teachers, they had monotone voices and spoke in gobbledegook I just couldn’t relate to. However, I learnt from this excellent teacher that the universe is moving farther and farther away from us and many scientists think that we will end our lives by freezing because the universe will have moved so far away.

I don’t think I can do justice to this teacher’s enthusiasm. He was more enthusiastic than a fan of One Direction who wakes up to find Harry Styles in her bedroom. Wait… that’s a little too creepy. Completely the wrong comparison to make. See… I just can’t do him justice!

Picture this instead: a room filled with some students nervous with the impending threat of their 5 short minutes under the heat of the  assessment spotlight. Omar* jumped up to do his presentation. He’d tried out Prezi after I’d used it in a lesson the previous week. He’d set it all up and I braced myself for his nerves to spill out before they settled over the first minute or so. Well boy did he destroy any expectations I may have labelled him with. He bounced around the classroom, he projected his voice, he intonated his words, he waved his arms about and brought the subject alive.

Unwittingly, rather than a GCSE presentation, we were all witness to an outstanding lesson. He showed a 30 second video that explained his concept even further. Before showing it, he said to his eager class, ‘watch this carefully because you’ll be asked a question afterwards and whoever gets the answer correct, will win this chocolate bar.’ The students moved forward in their seats and awaited the information with baited breath. It was given and the student first to respond with the answer Omar* wanted (he used careful questioning techniques to elicit) won their prize!

At the end of his brief lesson, the audience were more engaged then they had been all night. The questions kept on coming and coming and coming. The time limit went out of the window. The students couldn’t stop asking questions and before we knew it, it was ten to 7 (the lesson normally finishes at 6.30pm).

If you’re still wondering why teaching is so addictive, despite all the late nights, weekend working and paperwork; it’s because students like Omar* will always have the power to surprise and delight us. I was in awe. I feel so privileged to have this student in my class and that, right there, is the joy of teaching. You never know which one will surprise you next.

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