This week’s guest blogger is not only a rare high school math and physics teacher, but also my younger brother. Even though teaching was not something he originally planned on doing, he is quite good at it. (It must have been due to all those times we played school together and I was of course the teacher and he was one of the students in my class.) I had the unique privilege of teaching at the same school as my brother in Korea and I could tell that he was making quite an impact on their lives.
By Brian Kim
As a certified nerd and non-certified math teacher for the last 5 years, I’ve realized quite a few things about my “oh-so-lovely” students. The most important of these can be spelled out with a simple cliché: every single one of my students can change the world. I don’t mean this in a butterfly effect type of way where if they flap their barely post-pubescent wings now, it may cause a storm of ominous and unavoidable chain reactions leading to the complete, utter, and mass destruction of the world. But I mean this in a genuine way, where I’ve come to believe that I’m teaching the future leaders, policymakers, and trendsetters in a constantly changing and evolving world (that hopefully won’t end in mass destruction). My students are world changers.
In my ‘selfless’ quest to prod my students along on this journey towards success and hopefully a share in their future billion-dollar corporations, I started off with some new classroom decorations. Realizing their need for good role models outside of their suicidal celebrities, largely absent fathers, and their overly sarcastic math teacher, I decided to post up pictures of my heroes in the math world for them. As I desperately tried to explain how Einstein, Gauss, and Euler are important to their future successes and why giving equity to past teachers is a good business decision, I didn’t get much of a response from my iphone-hugging, gangnam-styling students. A few blank stares, nervous nods, and a feigned laugh later, I realized I needed to change my approach.
A bit discouraged, but still unfazed, I decided to turn the tables on my students. I gave them a simple homework assignment: Come to math class with 3 math quotes that are not from google (aka write them yourself!). The following class, we took time to share the quotes in class and we voted for which quote we liked the best for each student. And then we went for an impromptu photo shoot in our classroom armed with my DSLR, the bulletin board, and a pinch of creativity (aka adobe photoshop). I printed out the pictures along with their quotes, laminated them, and posted them on my back wall.
Now everyday when my students walk into the classroom or look to the back because they’re tired of looking at my handsome face, they see a wall full of world changers: Einstein, Gauss, and Euler, next to Bae, Kim, Lee, Nelson, Crystal, Jung, and probably some more Kims.