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Teaching Physics With Folklore Is The Biggest Skill I Learnt During My Internship

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I’ve always felt that the Indian education system needs a makeover. Today, it mainly focuses on the theoretical aspect of concepts and not on the practical applications. After graduation, I thought about my career options for some time and decided to become a physics teacher. In order to achieve that dream, I started to acquire all the skills required.

Like the majority of Indian students, I knew about Prof. H.C. Verma and his most famous book, ‘Concepts of Physics’. I had seen his online videos and was intrigued by his teaching methodology. I wished to meet him and learn more about his thought process. Towards the end of September 2016, through a friend, I came to know about theDesigning Physics Experiments internship under Prof. Verma himself. The internship had been made possible through an initiative of Internshala called ‘Intern with Icon’, and I wanted to grasp this opportunity. The first round of selection consisted of personal questions about my achievements and about why I should be hired. My answers to those questions were going to determine my selection for the second round. As many as 800 students had applied for the internship and only two were going to work with Dr Verma.

I was nervous about what I had answered, but I got through the first round. The second round was a telephonic interview and I was informed about the date and time via email. The interviewer asked me questions about my family background, my interest in the field of physics, future goals, etc. and whether I was ready to relocate if selected. I spoke confidently and cleared it. The third round was a telephonic interview directly with Prof. Verma. He asked me a few questions related to why I wanted to become a teacher, my views on the current teaching methodology, etc.In the final round, I had to submit an assignment. I was asked to choose any one story from the Panchatantra and to make physics-based questions on that story. I was also asked to provide correct and easy to understand solutions for those questions. After doing some research, I chose The Monkey and the Dolphin’, a story with morals on lying and boasting, and prepared seven questions along with their solutions.

On November 8, 2016, just a day before my birthday, I received a mail confirming my selection for the internship. I couldn’t have gotten a better birthday gift! I was informed that my food and accommodation would be provided by Prof. Verma, and I came to IIT Kanpur on January 10, 2017. Prof. Verma had provided his own quarter for my three-month stay and, thus, house number 329 became my home. On the first day, I met Prof. Verma and he insisted that I must have lunch with him. Over lunch, he shared his ideas about how to make physics more interesting and relatable to students. The IIT Kanpur campus is spread over an area of 1000 acres and it is not easy to go around the campus on foot. Dr Verma surprised me again by giving me his own cycle.

He asked me to continue the work that I had done for the assignment. He wanted me to add more stories to the material. For every story, I had to make physics questions related to the action that had taken place in the story. I also had to provide solutions for those questions. Every alternate day, I would complete a story and discuss it with Prof. Verma. I could sense his expertise in answering any question that I asked – years of experience had given him that clarity of thoughts. Even though he is a celebrated teacher, he never made me feel any less! Despite being very busy, he would give me ample amount of time to discuss the stories. And even though I was new, he gave me the responsibility and freedom to form questions for those stories. He certainly taught me an insightful approach to study and teach physics! With all this exposure, I also received a monthly stipend.

I had completed around 10 stories when Prof. Verma informed me that he wanted to publish this material in the form of a book. I couldn’t believe my luck; my work was going to get published. Moreover, Prof. Verma wanted me to be his co-author for the book! I was given the target to complete the book in three months. The book would contain 30 Indian cultural stories from Mahabharata, Ramayana, Panchatantra, and Jataka tales. I came to IIT Kanpur, expecting to learn about the physics demonstrations made by Prof. Verma, but I achieved much more than that.

During my last few days, Prof. Verma was about to conduct a three-day workshop on physics for the teachers of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan. He was going to demonstrate different physics experiments that he had designed apart from giving talks. He also encouraged me to take a one-hour session on the second day. As usual, he gave me the freedom for content preparation. Talking on my favourite topic in front of an audience full of teachers was a great moment that I’ll always cherish.

At the talk I gave

This experience has only strengthened my resolve to work in the field of education and currently, I’m teaching students of class 11 and class 12 in Latur (Maharashtra).

About the Author: Rishikesh Vibhute completed his B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from VIT University, Vellore. One of the winners of Internshala’s Intern with Icon initiative, he interned under Prof. H.C. Verma and shares insightful details about his journey. This story was first published on Internshala.

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