Sunday, January 30, 2005

To Discover Magazine: It's about time.

I finished high school in 1968. The physics textbook we used was the P.S.S.C. text, an American textbook. There were no inches, miles, feet, or pounds in that book.

It is now 2005, 37 years later. Yet Discover Magazine, my favourite science magazine, still uses those units, instead of metres, kilometres, and kilograms. Two entire generations of American children have grown up with the metric system in science. When will Discover Magazine slide into the twenty-first century and realize that American adults and youth are ready to read scientific articles that contain the units as the rest of the world uses; indeed, the same system of measurements that the scientists in their own country use daily?
Lucky to have been a teacher

This is my last year teaching. I am so lucky to have been in this profession. Imagine being able to tell people about things you find interesting every day. When you return from a good movie, don't you want to tell everyone about it, persuade them to go see it, too? That's the way it has been for me in physics, computers, science, astronomy, math.

And I have been so fortunate to be able to live out fantasies: waving my hands in front of the junior band is the equivalent of conducting a symphony orchestra; my girl's baseball team is my Blue Jays; when directing a musical, I'm standing on Broadway.

I have had a decent salary and great holidays. Of course, the general public doesn't know I marked papers and developed handouts, on average, about 16 hours a week at home. That's just the way it is, teachers work longer hours than anyone realizes. But I'm not complaining, just stating.

If you like interacting with youth, creating intellectual resources, teaching something different every day, you could do worse than enter the teaching profession. You must be able to handle change, be willing to bring your work home with you, and have something prepared for every period of every day. (Nothing is worse, or more pressure-inducing, than facing 30 young people with nothing for them to do!)

I have been so lucky to have been able to help a couple of generations of young people get a start in life. The amazing thing is that someone has actually paid me to spend 32 years doing what I love. I hope you are as fortunate.