It's All Relative

It’s All Relative

by Sasha Kanal

A recent meeting with retired teacher Bob Chambers saw Sasha Kanal transported back to her school days where they discussed life, the universe and all things physics.

There’s no one more enthusiastic about science and the teaching of it than retired teacher Bob Chambers. And I should know. I in fact had the pleasure of being taught by this kindly, patient, knowledgeable man as a student in the late 80s. Back then, Bob’s passion for the subject and aim to make it fun for all his pupils shone through. It seems then that not much has changed, when I meet him to discuss his thoughts on physics and education in today’s world. Although officially retired in 2001, Bob has since tutored GCSE pupils in maths and physics to great success. “The best thing to witness as a teacher is when the penny drops for a student and they finally understand a concept they may have been struggling with. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world for me and for them hopefully!” he smiles.

Originally from the Midlands, Bob’s career started in the RAF as a radar fitter while doing National Service. After the RAF, Bob became a computer programmer and then systems analyst and moved to Sussex with his wife and two sons. It was then that he decided to study for a degree in Physics and Astronomy at Sussex University followed by a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education), so he could go on and teach it.

Why physics? I ask Bob. “I wanted to study something that existed naturally and wasn’t ‘man-made’ so to speak. Physics has existed since the universe’s creation and its application is a rm part of our lives on this planet,” says Bob.

In fact Bob places great emphasis on relaying the importance of physics in everyday life to his pupils. “I always try to re them up about the kind of jobs and careers they can do if they study physics. This puts the subject in context for them. It’s a simple premise but one that’s sometimes overlooked when teaching.”

The teaching of physics has changed a lot since the 1980s and Bob himself witnessed the shifts across the decades. “When I first taught, it was all about learning a law such as Newton’s Law and then experimentation to prove it. You built your knowledge on a Law of Physics and then used it. In the 90s this changed to more project-based teaching, where both social and scientific aspects of a topic such as ‘energy’ were examined.”

And how to make a subject like Physics fun for young people today?

“The Royal Institution in London hosts fantastic, hands-on lectures for children aged 11-18 and the way they’re presented is just brilliant,” says Bob. “They are funny, practical and involving – the best way to teach science really.”

“Not forgetting the wonderful physicists such as Einstein we can tell today’s kids about,” he continues. “Albert Einstein turned the world of science on its head and had such a colossal impact on physics – we can inspire children today with great thinkers and mavericks such as him.”

And for a moment I’m transported back to a lesson in the science lab at my old school and want to learn those Laws again. Thank you Mr Chambers.