High School Science

My son has done well in college--better by far than his father--and has a range of professional options open to him, including becoming a scientist or becoming a music teacher. He has decided against science as a career; he wants to be a high school music teacher. Why? "Because," he told me, "I like the lifestyle. Mrs. Smith [a music instructor he knows] enjoys teaching high school, and she also plays in the symphony."

By | November 26, 1990

My son has done well in college--better by far than his father--and has a range of professional options open to him, including becoming a scientist or becoming a music teacher. He has decided against science as a career; he wants to be a high school music teacher. Why?

"Because," he told me, "I like the lifestyle. Mrs. Smith [a music instructor he knows] enjoys teaching high school, and she also plays in the symphony."

Mrs. Smith's lifestyle is attractive indeed: She teaches a subject she loves to students who are young and enthusiastic--and she does not have to give up her own musicianship! Science instructors, on the other hand--as my son points out--almost always give up doing science when they begin teaching it.

This is unfortunate. Surely the quantitative demands made upon one's time and energy by the concert stage and the research laboratory are not so different. Science teachers, when they were students, liked their lab work and were good at it. Why are they (unlike Mrs. Smith) unable to continue enjoying and developing these talents?

We in colleges and universities, where most basic research is done, could help matters by inviting high school teachers to participate in our lab activities. Everyone would benefit. We would gain potentially useful associates. The teacher's self-esteem--as well as his or her knowledge and enthusiasm-- would increase. The students' respect for their teachers and for high school teaching as a profession would surely increase. And high schools would start graduating more and better science students.

Getting teachers to accept the invitation may not be easy. In addition to competing demands for their time, many high school teachers lack sophisticated research experience and, quite understandably, are likely to feel intimidated. We could help overcome these problems, however, by offering them patience, friendship, and an open door.

JOHN S. DICKEY, JR.
Dean, Division of Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering
Trinity University
San Antonio, Texas


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