I just googled 'physics teacher stereotype' and one of the first images that came up was the one shown here. And that lead to me this this story, which suggested that the stereotypical physics teacher in the UK today is seen as scary, grumpy and smelling of cabbage. And also to this - which told me that the average physics teacher in the US is a 42 year old white male - who will probably have been in his job for less than two years(!)
All of which makes the results of our recent survey here at PhysicsResourceBank sort of interesting. Are we the stereotype? Are we close to the stereotype? Do we all smell of cabbage?
First of all, are we all male? Apparently not. a scan of members and visitors to the site suggest that this stereotype is invalid (or at least that things are changing). It shows 65% female, 35% male. I suspect that that is heavily skewed by demographics and that the stereotype may be more valid amongst older teachers, but we didn't run any check on that.
What about age? Are we all 42?
Apparently not. pretty much half of those responding are under 40, and the other half between 40-60, with only a tiny number aged 61 or over.
What about experience? Are we all inclined to spend just two years in a teaching job?
Apparently not. More than a quarter have twenty years experience - or more - of teaching. More than a half have been teaching for over 10 years.
But interestingly, the figures tell us that on average we have (a little) less experience as teachers of physics - which would suggest to me that many are being called upon to change into the subject after many years teaching other subjects. Hopefully based on what they studied in college. But possibly not. Because I didn't think to ask what - or where - we had all actually studied. I wish I had!
We asked 16 questions in our survey, and a few of them leave us with results that are hard to analyse, so I'm going to work my way through this slowly over the next few weeks. But one statistic stands out. I asked where teachers have been going online for resources and a large majority reported themselves as fans of thephysicsteacher.ie. It's no great surprise to those of us who have been around for a while that the site should be popular, but it is worth noting nonetheless. And kudos to Mr Noel Cunningham for producing it and maintaining it for so long, to such a high standard. In the unlikely event that somebody has ended up here without having been there first, go there now!
But for the moment, I think we can answer one question definitively:
Are all Irish physics teachers 42 year old white males with little experience of teaching? No, we're not. We cover a range of ages and experience levels and we have a healthy gender mix. (Not that there is anything wrong with being a 42 year old white man, of course)
And are we all grumpy and scary? And do we smell of cabbage? I don't know. The statistics don't address any of these issues. But I hope not.