Moses Rifkin - Member Spotlight - August 2017Spotlight Archive

Member Spotlight

Moses Rifkin
University Prep
Seattle, Washington

In my first few years as a teacher, I remember seeing a stack of The Physics Teacher's in a hallway.  I picked one up, leafed through it, and suddenly felt like I was listening in on a very exciting conversation.  There were parts of that conversation that became immediately integrated into my teaching, and parts that opened up new ways of looking at myself that changed the path of my teaching.  I have no idea how those journals got there, but I feel incredibly lucky to have found them.  I became an AAPT member the very next day, and since then I have never opened an issue of The Physics Teacher without finding something useful or exciting.  It truly has had a profound effect on me as an educator.

I believe that physics teaching is, at its core, about helping students to find themselves and discover what they can do.  I don’t think it’s different in any other discipline, but I love teaching physics specifically because so many of my students find it challenging.  That challenge is a gift to me as a teacher because the mistakes, frustration, and stumbles of my students are the first steps of stretching themselves mentally.  In that process, they learn that they are curious about things they thought they weren't interested in and capable of doing things they thought they couldn’t.

I believe that integrating social justice into our physics teaching is a way of strengthening our teaching, engaging more students, addressing inequalities within physics, and ultimately improving the world.  Writing and speaking on this topic through AAPT journal articles, webinars and meetings have been an incredible experience for me, and I’ve learned so much from the community that’s formed around this growing conversation.

At the 2016 AAPT Summer Meeting, I had the profound feeling of having found “my people”. I met other physics teachers who were just as excited about building relationships with their students, who believed that all students were capable, who were dedicated to equity and were using their work as a means to achieve it. I recognize that not all physics teachers agree with me about integrating social justice – and I value hearing that perspective, too – but I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this community and conversation, and it’s one of the main reasons I'm looking forward to attending my next AAPT Meeting.