Lessons Learned In and Out of Teachers’ College.

1.                     Professor Searles was the best teacher I had in teachers’ college. If you want to argue in favour of cloning, use him as an example. It’s a shame that a man like that had to retire. From what I’ve heard, no one has been able to fill his shoes.

a.       He filmed us to show us how ineffective we were when we stuck our noses into the boards.

b.      He explained to us that although the use of multimedia is a great change of tempo, chalk and talk remain a basic tool of teaching.

c.       Even though they have been phased out, the Chem Study, PSSC and BSCS programs set the highest standards for both high school teachers and students. He kept centering his curriculum courses around those programs even though the bureaucrats in Quebec thought otherwise.

d.      He reiterated the following valuable lesson:

Know and love your subject, and communicate effectively.

In my twenty years of teaching, I have not loved my workload every day, but passion for getting ideas across and for learning has refilled my tank over and over again.


Pedagogical debates are not a good investment of a teacher's energies. “To memorize or not”, “unit conversion versus proportions”, “constructivism versus lecturing”----I would rather see every teaching technique as something that fills my bag of tricks, rather than polarizing different approaches.

A quote that often comes to mind was given to me by a chemistry teacher (Dan Robichaud) who unfortunately died mowing his lawn during his first summer of retirement. “Think about teaching, and teach kids to think.” I fill a white bucket and am reminded that water is not colourless. It has a bluish- green tinge to it because its molecular vibrations steal a small part of the spectrum. While handling a golf club, I notice a hole in the handle and realize Boyle’s Law at work: without that hole they would never be able to slide the rubber over the steel as pressure would mount with decreasing volume. A woman runs for the bus, leaving a trail of perfume behind her, and I wonder about diffusion. At first there is a greater probability that perfume molecules collide with themselves than with air molecules. It is that mathematical reality that drives them apart and away from a temporarily ordered state. And imagine the magical kinetics that evoke memories so soon after molecules have bonded with nasal receptors.

Teaching is more akin to poetry than politics. Thank goodness!

3.                     One hard lesson I learned is that as a teacher one has to serve both as a coach and a referee. Many of us in the early stages of our careers are only one of the two, and we do kids a disservice. They need help and encouragement, but there also comes a time when you have to stand back and evaluate objectively whether they or we have accomplished the task at hand. Are they thinking critically? Are they analyzing and handling new situations? Or are they merely parotting?

4.                     Maybe it applies to all types of teaching, but I’ve never met a science teacher who does the best job possible while being inundated with extracurricular or semi-administrative tasks. Although the latter are necessary evils, many people do not understand this truism, and they compromise the quality of education by placing too many external demands on teachers. This is especially true of private schools, and for that reason, I will never send my children to private institutions, nor will I work in one again unless I’m allowed to stipulate my own terms.